FARMERS have welcomed moves by Government to force highway authorities and railway companies to take strong action against the countryside's "yellow peril."
This is ragwort, a lovely but highly poisonous roadside weed which is estimated to kill 600 horses every year and make thousands of other farm animals seriously ill. It could also be dangerous to any child who picked it and ingested some of its sap.
The plant, with beautiful gold flowers, is at its peak at this time of the year and, for many years, highways authorities and other bodies owning large strips of land have been under legal obligation to control it.
But in recent years, financial cuts imposed on rural councils, and the privatisation of the railway network, has made many farmers believe that this duty is not being properly carried out. And as each plant can produce 150,000 seeds, it has been spreading like wildfire.
Last week, Defra Minister Alun Michael introduced of a draft code for controlling the weed and this has been welcomed by the National Farmers' Union.
The union's environment chairman John Seymour said "While beautiful to the eye, this plant is deadly to farm livestock and horses. Some areas of the countryside are overrun with it.
"We are, therefore, extremely pleased that Defra has listened to our comments and ensured that the code will place clear responsibilities on all land managers, including the Highways Agency and Strategic Rail Authority."