The Welsh Assembly Government has unveiled a new code of practice to prevent and control the spread of ragwort.

Under the Weeds Act 1959, landowners must take action to stop “injurious weeds” spreading from their land.

A spokesman for the assembly said: “We are not seeking to eradicate ragwort — in the right environment, where it causes no risk to grazing animals, ragwort greatly contributes to the biodiversity of the flora and fauna in our countryside.

“Guidance has been prepared to promote good practice and significantly reduce the risk of poisoning to livestock.”

The assembly has said it will take action where ragwort is growing close to horses and refusal to remove it may lead to court action and loss of the single farm payment.

Ragwort is highly poisonous to horses in its green and dried forms, leading to acute liver damage, but anecdotal evidence points to a proliferation around the UK.

Hundreds of people took part in the British Horse Society’s annual ragwort survey this month.

H&H is collating an online map of the spread of ragwort

You can download the code of practice at www.wales.gov.uk

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (29 July, ’10)