Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has issued a warning to farmers and landowners of the need to control noxious weeds.

Under the Noxious Weeds (Northern Ireland) Order 1977, ragwort, creeping thistle, broad-leafed docks, curled-leafed docks and wild oats are defined as noxious weeds, i.e., plants capable of being injurious to public health, agriculture or wildlife.

DAERA said it has powers under the order to insist that these weeds are controlled under notice and failure to comply with such a requirement could result in prosecution and/or Basic Payment penalty.

The department said the owners and occupiers of land should be aware that ragwort (also called ragweed or benweed) is poisonous and may cause illness, or even death, to livestock.

Under the Noxious Weeds (Northern Ireland) Order 1977, the department is empowered to serve upon the owner of land or the occupier of land a notice requiring, within a specified time, weeds to be cut down or destroyed.

Failure to comply with such a notice, the department said, could lead to the instigation of legal proceedings or a penalty on Basic Payment.

DAERA said these weeds should be controlled before they have had time to flower, seed and spread. A factsheet providing information on how to control the weeds can be obtained from the department.

Farmers and landowners can fund further advice on weed control from a BASIS-qualified agronomist or a College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) crops development advisor.

The department also asked that noxious weeds complaints and complaints involving invasive alien plant species growing on agricultural land be reported to it.