THE Countryside Alliance is concerned about the ragwort which is blooming on roadside verges and uncultivated land at the moment.

“As every horse owner and farmer knows, ragwort contains toxins which can have a debilitating or fatal consequences if eaten by horses and other grazing animals,” said Simon Hart, chief executive of the alliance.

He said ragwort had a place in the countryside, supporting a wide variety of invertebrates, and was a major nectar source for many insects but it needed to be controlled, especially where there were horses and livestock.

“Land stewardship and animal husbandry are both huge responsibilities and I know that they are taken seriously by farmers but it is important that the dangers posed by ragwort reach the widest possible audience.

“There is growing concern that some public bodies who own land are not taking the problem seriously and managing land appropriately. There is no excuse – a code of practice on how to stop the spread of ragwort is available from Defra.”

The alliance, added Mr Hart, was writing to all local authorities and other public bodies to remind them that they had a duty to control ragwort on their land and must be vigilant, especially where their land abutted farmland.

“The threat ragwort poses to animals cannot be under-estimated and is something that all landowners, whether public or private, must take seriously,” he said.