INTEGRATED WEED MANAGEMENT
There is widespread concern about the negative impact of both agricultural and non-agricultural pesticide use on declining insect populations and the consequent loss of biodiversity. There is growing awareness of the important contribution of wild grasses and flowers in roadside verges to biodiversity, human health and wellbeing. Positive example are set by cities such as Zurich that have embraced the visual and biodiverse beauty of their wild verges that have also been used after the autumn cut, as nutrient-rich feed for cattle.
In the UK, Rotherham Council’s 8-mile ring road wildflower meadow saved up to £25,000 in mowing costs and improved biodiversity, while also being popular with residents. Sheffield’s Living Highways Project shows how councils can work together with contractors to deliver a verge management plan that boosts wildlife.
In Cambridge, On the Verge has made great advances with encouraging the planting of wildflower meadows in the city parks. Cambridge City Council took the positive decision in 2019 to stop applying glyphosate-based herbicides in the city’s parks, open spaces and children’s playgrounds, and this has also had a positive impact on the biodiversity and appearance of these areas. A significant part of our campaign is to get these improvements extended to Cambridge’s valuable verges to increase biodiversity, beauty and health, but also to stop the blanket spraying of herbicides on its pavements and streets.
Some of the Cambridge colleges have taken steps towards replacing their sterile lawns heavily dependent on synthetic herbicides and fertilizers with wildflower meadows or to implement organic gardening approaches. Positive examples include King’s College wildflower meadow, Jesus College Nature Trail, and Fitzwilliam College's organic garden.
There is an urgent need however to continue questioning the damaging urbane expectations of tidiness, order and control of ‘nature’ that lawns, both public and private, have come to represent, as argued so eloquently in Robbins’ 2007 book, Lawn People. Such values are in stark contradiction with recent research on the impact of biodiverse and natural spaces on human immune systems and mental health.
Butterfly Conservation. Road Verge Symposium 2019: Presentation and Workshop Notes.
The Wildlife Trusts: Sheffield and Rotherham’s Living Highways Project
PAN-UK’s Pesticide Free Towns. Includes advice to Local Authorities on how to transition to glyphosate-free weed control methods; to campaigners on how to set up a local pesticide-free campaign, as well as organic gardening advice.
Books & articles
Goulson, D. 2019. The Garden Jungle. London: Jonathan Cape.
Greenfield, P. 2020. On The Verge: A Quiet Roadside Revolution is Boosting Wildflowers. The Guardian, 14 March 2020.
Plantlife. 2019. Managing Grassland Road Verges: A Best Practice Guide. (excellent guidance on improving road-verge biodiversity in simple, achievable steps).
Robbins, P. 2007. Lawn People: How Grasses, Weeds, and Chemicals Make Us Who We Are. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
Roberts, B., and Phillips, B. 2019. Road Verges and Their Potential for Pollinators, Buglife Report.