The effectiveness of asulam for bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) control in the United Kingdom: a meta-analysis.
Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) is a major problem for livestock-based extensive agriculture, conservation, recreation, and game management globally. It is an invasive species often achieving dominance to the detriment of other species. Control is essential to maintain plant communities such as grassland and lowland heath or if extensive grazing by domestic stock, particularly sheep, is to be viable on upland margins. Bracken is managed primarily by herbicide application or cutting but other techniques including rolling, burning, and grazing are also utilized. Here we evaluate the evidence regarding the effectiveness of asulam for the control of bracken. Thirteen studies provided data for meta-analyses which demonstrate that application of the herbicide asulam reduces bracken abundance. Subgroup analyses indicate that the number of treatments had an important impact, with multiple follow-up treatments more effective than one or two treatments. Management practices should reflect the requirement for repeated follow-up. There is insufficient available experimental evidence for quantitative analysis of the effectiveness of other management interventions, although this results from lack of reporting in papers where cutting and comparisons of cutting and asulam application are concerned. Systematic searching and meta-analytical synthesis have effectively demonstrated the limits of current knowledge, based on recorded empirical evidence, and increasing the call for more rigorous monitoring of bracken control techniques. Lack of experimental evidence on the effectiveness of management such as rolling or grazing with hardy cattle breeds contrasts with the widespread acceptance of their use through dissemination of experience.