How to Grow (Kill)
Control of bracken is very difficult. Mechanical control of aboveground portions of the plants is ineffective, because of the deep-seated perennial rhizome, as is application of controlled burns. Plowing is somewhat effective when crop fields have been infested, but is not feasible in most natural habitats. Under natural conditions, bracken frond density decreases with increasing shade as forest canopies develop closure, but this is a lengthy process and sometimes at odds with other management objectives for given parcels of land.
On a small scale, bracken ferns can be controlled by foliar application of herbicides such as glyphosate and asulam, with repeated application to resprouting fronds necessary and the use of a surfactant to facilitate uptake of the herbicide through the waxy cuticle increasing the chances of success. At larger geographic scales, herbicides have been applied by aircraft, but this process has the potential to impact adjacent nontarget plant species.
Biological controls have thus-far not been implemented successfully to control stands of Pteridium aquilinum in nature. However, searches for potential organisms with which to develop a biocontrol program have been going on for years, principally in Great Britain, mainly involving potential fungal and insect pathogens. Source documents: Gaskin et al. (1986), Sharma and Kirkwood (1995), Womack et al. (1995); Petrov and Marrs (2000), Robinson (2000), Robinson and Page (2000), Fowler (2002).
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