Friday, 4 December 2009

Weedy Gravel?

Weedy Gravel?
by Peter Martin
Is your gravel weedy? Mine is. And it looks as
though it may be heading for a yet weedier future.
Until now I have been suppressing the weeds by
applying a sodium chlorate solution twice a year.
Sodium chlorate was cheap and effective because it
remained in the soil for months and had a
continuing effect, unlike glyphosate which breaks
down soon after contact with the soil.
This autumn, realizing that my supplies were low, I
popped into Frank Nicol in Dingwall and
discovered that they had just sold the last of their
stock and would not be getting any more as it had
been banned.
I decided to investigate and found that it had been
withdrawn from sale in compliance with noninclusion
Decision 2008/865/EC. “And just what’s
that when it’s at home?” I can hear you saying – or
perhaps even something less polite. Well, be
patient while you read about the horrors of sodium
chlorate and then you will find out.
Sodium chlorate is poisonous; if ingested it causes
haemoglobin oxidation. In simple terms, it
destroys the red blood cells we need to carry
oxygen around our bodies. In addition, being an
oxidizing agent, it is useful in the manufacture of
home-made explosives. These considerations led
the European Parliament to decide that it should no
longer be included in Annex 1 of Council
Directive 91/414/EEC, which regulates the “plant
protection products” that may be used within the
European Union.
Member States were required to withdraw
authorization for plant protection products
containing sodium chlorate by 10 May 2009.
Under Article 4(6) of Directive 91/414/EEC
Member States are allowed to give a “period of
grace for the disposal, storage, placing on the
market and use of existing stocks”. In the case of
sodium chlorate the Parliament decided this period
of grace “shall be as short as possible and shall
expire on 10 May 2010 at the latest”.
What now? It seems that the main replacement
product being aimed at domestic users is
Pathclear™, however it only even claims to remain
effective for three months. Assuming no weed
growth in the winter, that would mean one needed
to apply it at least three times a year. I have
calculated that a single application would cost me
£150. Since I do not live in a stately home
surrounded by acres of what the late Sir John
Betjeman referred to as “private gravel” I think
that a bit steep. Any suggestions? ~