Free weed wiper hire offer for farmers goes live in April

Farmers in the River Dee drinking water safeguard zone are being offered free hire of weed wipers which target weeds directly while leaving the valuable underlying crop unaffected.

United Utilities and The Welsh Dee Trust are offering a range of sizes of weed wipers including 2.5m ATV trailed Logic & Blaney magic eye weed wipers and a Logic 6m tractor mounted weed wiper.

Farmers can find out if they’re eligible for the offer, which runs from 1 April 2018 to 31 October 2018, by contacting their local catchment advisor.

Dee catchment advisor, Gareth Foulkes, said: “There are many benefits in using a weed wiper when treating grassland weeds. Livestock selectively graze avoiding weeds like docks, nettles, thistles and soft rush which then grow taller than the pasture. Weed wipers selectively target these weeds by setting the weed wiper height, clover is unaffected and the grass is not checked. “There’s also a great saving on the amount of chemical used as it’s only applied to the weeds, this also reduces treatment cost. Weed wipers do not produce any spray drift improving operator safety when compared to boom sprayers, especially those mounted on ATV’s without cabs. It also means weeds can be treated safely when it would be too windy for boom spraying.”

Over the two years that United Utilities has been running this offer 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.

Farmer Huw Beech, of Plas yn Ial farm, took up the offer last year. He said: “I was astounded with the results. I had an eight acre field next to the river with 60 per cent rush cover, I treated it in May and it had less than one per cent rush by August. Excellent advice and top-tips from the farmer who held and co-ordinated the loan of weed-wiper. The wiper also came on a purpose-made road trailer which made it easy to collect and return,” he added.

With a properly adjusted weed wiper, herbicide is only applied to the weeds. This saves money as less of the herbicide chemical is required for the process. Weed wipers can be used on grass, cereal, root and horticultural crops to get rid of a variety of weeds including rush, thistles, docks, nettles and volunteer weeds. The combination of no spray and less chemical makes it a safer method of weed control for both the user and the wider environment.

United Utilities is offering the free weed wiper hire for up to three days to apply the herbicide, glyphosate, which is 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 catchment. Although the levels found have been too low to cause environmental or health risks they increase the cost of treating raw water.

Dr Kate Snow, Catchment Manager at United Utilities, said: “Weeds are a real problem for many farmers and growers. The practice of weed wiping is growing each year as a more efficient, alternative method of weed control.”

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