An alternative weed control trial, commissioned by Cardiff Council has been described as “one of the most comprehensive real-world studies comparing glyphosate with the alternative methods of weed control currently available in the UK” by Dr Dan Jones of Advanced Invasives who conducted the study.

Complete Weed Control, a national amenity weed control company, delivered the services that informed the independent research that found glyphosate to be the cheapest, most effective way of controlling weeds when administered using WEEDit technology.

The scientific trial assessed the viability of two alternatives to the glyphosate-based approach used by the majority of local authorities in the UK. It found that glyphosate has a smaller overall environmental footprint than the two alternatives trialled, which were acetic acid (a highly concentrated vinegar) and a hot foam treatment (a plant-based product which combines hot water with a biodegradable foam).

In addition to the environmental results, glyphosate was also the least expensive and ranked highest for customer satisfaction.

The trial, carried out following a recommendation from a Cardiff Council Environmental Scrutiny inquiry into the management of biodiversity and the natural environment, was conducted by Dr Dan Jones, an Honorary Research Associate in Swansea University’s Department of Biosciences, and Managing Director of Advanced Invasives, a consultancy founded in 2016 to bring evidence-led thinking to the commercial management of invasive plants.

Dr Jones said: “What we found was that not only is glyphosate the most efficient and effective way of controlling weeds, but once you look at the full life cycle of the product, factoring in things like the amount of fuel and water-used, it is also the least damaging to the environment.

“The responsible glyphosate-based approach to weed control currently used by the council is the most sustainable method of weed control currently available in the UK.”

The responsible approach Dr Jones is referring to includes the use of Complete Weed Control’s exclusive WEEDit technology. Established in 1997, the WEEDit is a computer-controlled herbicide application system specifically designed for use on footpaths and other hard surface areas. The sensor units detect the presence of weeds and trigger the appropriate spray nozzles to accurately apply the correct amount of herbicide to the weeds. This results in high levels of weed control, with up to 80% reduced herbicide usage.

Ian Graham, managing director of Complete Weed Control said: “As an industry it is essential we utilise science to inform best practice, alongside technology to deliver efficiency.

“Our organisation is recognised for delivering the best service for our customers from our 40 locations across the whole of the UK and Ireland. Our commitment to continuous improvement and a responsibility to meet environmental requirements has seen us invest heavily in research and technology.

“The findings of this study confirms the investment we have made has allowed for a reduction in herbicide required whilst delivering the best possible outcomes from a quality, financial and environmental perspective.”

The research found that:

  • Across 18 different environmental impact categories, hot foam had the highest impact in all but one category, with the environmental impact of glyphosate being lowest in all but two categories.
  • Total product usage was lowest, at 0.33 litres per km for glyphosate, compared to 4.06 litres of acetic acid (12 times more herbicide), and 5.38 litres of hot foam (16 times more than glyphosate) required to treat one kilometre of pavement.
  • Hot foam required 629.64 litres of water per kilometre – 48 times more water than glyphosate, which required 13 litres per kilometre. Acetic acid required 8.44 litres per kilometre.
  • Applying glyphosate used less fuel – just 0.18 litres of diesel per km treated, compared to 0.19 litres for acetic acid, and 12.33 litres of diesel, plus 2.13 litres of petrol for hot foam – that’s 63 times more diesel and 100% more petrol than required for glyphosate.
  • It took 0.16 hours of labour to treat one kilometre with glyphosate, compared to 0.23 hours for acetic acid, and 4.89 hours for hot foam.
  • Glyphosate was also the product that worked best – generating only four complaints, compared to 22 for acetic acid, and 29 for hot foam.

Complete Weed Control’s South Wales team have been using their WEEDit technology on the streets of Cardiff for more than 20 years and following the report a spokesman for Cardiff Council said: “The Council has a duty of care to keep Cardiff’s streets and pavements free from trip-hazards and is also determined to achieve its One Planet Cardiff goals, reduce carbon emissions and protect the environment. The results of the independent trial suggest that the best way of doing that is to continue with our existing approach to weed control, while continuing the work that has already seen the amount of glyphosate applied in Cardiff reduced by 80% compared to previous application methods.”

You can view the full report here.

Jenni King

Author Jenni King

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