Big increase in farmers taking up free weed wiper hire offer

Take-up of a free weed wiper hire scheme in the River Dee and Llangollen Canal drinking water catchments saw a significant rise in 2017, according to United Utilities and The Welsh Dee Trust.

The offer, which ran from April to the end of October in 2016 and 2017, saw an increase in take up of more than 40 per cent this year compared with last.

The Welsh Dee Trust, working in partnership with United Utilities through its Sustainable Catchment Management Programme (SCaMP), recently published the results of the offer. These show that over the two years that it’s been running farmers in the Upper and Middle Dee and Llangollen Canal catchments have hired out the weed wipers 58 times to treat a total of more than 728 hectares. The scheme has been so successful it’s expected to run again in 2018.

Weed wipers work by applying chemical directly to the weed using a rotating brush, dramatically reducing spray drift and herbicide usage. Weeds tackled include docks, thistles, nettles and common rush. The wipers are only licensed for use with glyphosate weed killer which moves through the plant and kills the roots.

Glyphosate is also considered to be less harmful to the environment because it breaks down quicker than selective broadleaf herbicides such as MCPA, 2,4-D and Mecoprop which are commonly found in agricultural and amenity weed killers. These selective weed killers have been detected through routine water quality monitoring in the Dee and Canal catchments. Although the levels found have been too low to cause environmental or health risks they increase the cost of treating raw water.

Farmers taking up the offer could choose from several different weed wiper models including:

  • The Blaney Quad-X - a 2.4 metre wide trailed machine with dual rollers and an automatic weed detection or ‘magic eye’ which automatically activates the system to apply the right amount of chemical to the rollers only when weeds are present. There’s also the option of using a fitted bout marker to help show where weeds have been treated and improve efficiency.
  • The Logic CTF250, a 2.5 metre wide trailed machine with a single brush and the option of using a fitted bout marker.
  • The tractor mounted, six meter wide Logic CTM600W with hydraulically driven brushes and bout marker. This model fits onto the tractors’ three point linkage and folds when being transported on the road. This weed wiper will treat around five hectares an hour on level or smooth fields while significantly reducing the amount of chemical used compared to conventional boom spraying.

The trailed machines also come with their own dedicated trailer for easy transport on the road using a standard ball hitch.

Kate Snow, United Utilities’ Water Catchment Manager, commented: “The need for responsible pesticide use is well understood by farmers to ensure pesticides remain licensed for use. Weed wipers provide an effective and economic alternative in the control of weeds, improving grazing for livestock and benefiting water quality.”

Catchment advisers employed through SCaMP also work with farmers and land managers to promote best practice in the handling, application and disposal of pesticides. They also provide guidance on tackling the underlying causes of weeds to improve the condition of land and achieve a reduction in weed populations in the long term.

To find out more contact Clare Vincent in the United Utilities Press Office on 07904 112484 or 0345 072 0822.

Notes for Editors
The European Commission has agreed a five-year extension to the glyphosate licence, which was due to run out on 15 December 2017.

United Utilities
United Utilities is the UK’s largest listed water company and manages the regulated water and waste water network in North West England – which includes Cumbria, Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Merseyside with a combined population of nearly seven million. United Utilities' headquarters are in Warrington. Its shares are listed on the London Stock Exchange and the FTSE 100 Index. In 2017 the company was awarded World Class Status in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for the tenth year in succession.