RAGWORT CONTROL is difficult. The plant is very hardy and if you have a RAGWORT problem you need to devise an annual control program. It won't go away with one treatment.
The following are possible control strategies:
* Pulling/Digging- by far the most time consuming! The best time to do this is with immature plants before they have chance to develop seeds (job for this weekend!!!). In addition the immature plants are easier to remove as they have shorter roots. Heavy rain also makes it easier but I don't think that's going to help us at the moment! The process takes 2 years as seeds that spread this year will come up next year.
Be very careful doing this method to wear gloves and protect your arms and legs from the plant.
Ensure you bag the plant straight away as the seeds can spread once cut so carrying around in a wheel barrow is asking for trouble.
Pour rock salt into the hole after removing to kill any remaining root. There are some useful tools on the market to help remove RAGWORT including RagFork and Lazy Dog Tool. It is a lot of hard work but by far the most effective method when done regularly throughout the year. The effects will be cumulative so keeping it up over several years until all residual seeds have germinated will make things a lot easier in years to come.
* Herbicides - there are plenty of chemical treatments for weeds available but it's really important to get something specific for Ragwort as it is a very stubborn plant to kill. The time of year is very important and the stage of growth of the plant so I would advise getting advice from a trained agronomist for your specific circumstances. Keep in mind that the dead plants are still highly toxic and much more palatable than the fresh ones so must be removed so horses can't eat them. Most herbicides require horses to be off the pasture for upto two weeks following spraying which is not always possible.
* Natural Herbicides - alternatives to chemical treatment include natural herbicides such as BarrierH (Barner BioTech Ltd) which is a natural based product and contains citronella which has been shown to have some effectiveness against Ragwort. As with chemical herbicides you still need to remove the dead plants from the pasture before horses eat them and check the product for how long you need to have the horses off the pasture following spraying.
* Cutting - reducing Ragwort by cutting the plants is an emergency treatment only. It should only be done when the plant is in such large numbers that pulling/digging is not possible before the seeds have chance to spread. The advantage of cutting is you can remove large amounts of plants quicker than digging. The huge disadvantage is that cutting the plant often stimultes growth so they will come back quicker and bigger than before. Cutting Ragwort must be followed with another control method to reduce the amount of Ragwort longterm.
A good Ragwort control program takes a lot of hard work and effort but will be worth it in the long run. Depending on your circumstances and whether you have enough grazing to keep horses off fields for two weeks will depend on which method or combination of methods you choose to control the Ragwort. Once you have removed it either by digging up, cutting or herbicides then removing the dead plant, it is vitally important not to spread seed so ensure it gets bagged (preferrably twice) straight away. Never let horses have access to cut Ragwort.
Options for disposal include:
Burning (away from the fields as seeds may spread)
Composting (keep in a compost bin that has secure sides and roof so seeds can't spread)
Landfil - take to your local skip
Domestic Waste - small amounts of Ragwort can be bagged and popped in the wheelie bin
DO NOT leave Ragwort in a pile in or near the field once removed or leave it uncovered so the seed can spread or horses can access it.
I hope this helps you with getting on top of your Ragwort problem - Good Luck!