Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) is a native British fern commonly found in woodland and heath land. It is tolerant of a wide range of soils and climates and has an extensive underground network of two rhizome types which makes control difficult.
Is bracken harmful?
Fronds are poisonous to cattle and horses and harbour disease-carrying ticks and carry carcinogenic spores, however sheep and cattle normally avoid it.
Thick infestations of bracken can shade out all other plants
The fronds are most toxic at the newly emerged or crozier stage. The fronds become less toxic with age but it is important that bracken cut for animal bedding should have died back entirely. The rhizomes are also poisonous and are a potential hazard to pigs that may uproot them and to cattle when ploughing exposes the rhizomes. Bracken is considered a human health hazard due to the carcinogenic spores. It also provides a habitat favoured by sheep ticks which transmit Lymes disease.
How to Control Bracken
Effective chemical treatment of bracken can achieve a 98% control level. Failures often result from poor follow up treatments and failure of the native vegetation to recover.
PG TopTip – Using a blue marker dye can help you to see where you have been when controlling large areas of bracken
Treating bracken with Asulox
The specialist choice for bracken control is Asulox, which is a selective weedkiller meaning it will control the bracken without killing surrounding grass. For agricultural, forestry and amenity use, the selective weed killer Asulox is best used when the bracken is at waist height or just below. Treat with via a knapsack sprayer when the fronds (leaves) are at full extension and use the wetter Warrior. This reduces the surface tension of any water on the leaf allowing the Asulox to work effectively.
Follow up treatments:
Owing to the nature of bracken growth and the difficulty of spraying sheltered or uneven terrain, 100% bracken control is rarely achieved. Any bracken surviving should be sprayed as soon as it recovers to full green frond. This may be the year following the initial application but more likely the second year following initial application. If a programme of follow-up sprays is undertaken the bracken-free period will be greatly extended.
If no follow-up treatment or land improvement programme is carried out, re-spraying may be necessary within 5 years
Treating bracken with Roundup
There are several methods of application depending on circumstances. These include, application using a knapsack sprayer, a tractor-mounted or handheld Weedwiper and a tractor or ATV mounted boom sprayer. Both Roundup Proactive 360 & Roundup Provantage have full approvals for these uses.
Application rates of Roundup Proactive 360 are 5 L/ha or 25 ml/L water and equivalent rates of Roundup Provantage are 3.75 L/ha or 19 ml/L water. It is best uesd in conjunction with an adjuvant sticker: VALIDATE
Timings for control of Bracken control using Roundup are similar to Asulox – with spraying recommended as fronds approach full size and are fully unfurled in July/August, but before tip die-back. This window normally closes at the end of September depending on locality, altitude and season.
Treated fronds will die back within four weeks of treatment; future re-treatment may be needed. It is important that livestock are excluded from the treated area until bracken foliage has completely died back.