Ontario Federation of Agriculture Commentary
By Bruce Webster, OFA Board member
Noxious weeds are more than an inconvenience. They can cause damage and loss to crops, seriously affect livestock, invade natural environments and they can be extremely toxic to humans.
Wild parsnip is such a noxious and invasive weed that is causing a lot of concern across eastern Ontario. Wild parsnip is a serious concern for farmers right now. There are good reasons why it is designated invasive and noxious. Its properties include features such as:
* Outcompeting native plants and reducing biodiversity
* Its stem, leaves and flowers contain chemicals that increase skin sensitivity to sunlight
* Wild parsnip reduces the quality and saleability of agricultural forage crops such as hay, oats, and alfalfa
* It is toxic to cattle, horses and sheep and is known to reduce weight gain and fertility in livestock that eat it
Because of these characteristics wild parsnip is covered by Ontario’s Weed Control Act and the Invasive species Act.
Under the Weed Control Act, landowners are responsible for destroying noxious weeds on their property. Likewise, municipalities have the responsibility of controlling it on publically owned lands. The City of Ottawa and several municipalities across eastern Ontario are taking the threat of wild parsnip seriously and implementing control measures.
Herbicides approved for use by Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency are known to be one of the most effective and efficient control methods. These herbicides are rigorously tested and are applied by trained individuals who have completed the Ontario pesticide training certification and by municipalities to get wild parsnip under control and off of our farms and public areas.
It is equally important for the government of Ontario to take all necessary measures to control this noxious and invasive weed on provincial lands such as our highway corridors. The weed readily spreads, so attacking all sources will be necessary to get wild parsnip under control. Because of its competiveness and prolific ability to spread, early identification and effective control of wild parsnip using approved herbicides can reduce the amount of control methods needed at a later date.
Herbicides registered under the Pest Control Products Act are proven to be safe. Unfortunately, municipalities are facing public backlash from those who don’t like the idea of approved herbicides used to control this noxious and invasive weed. They fear ecological damage, but fail to recognize the damage to biodiversity and health risk posed. Those with no skin in the game do not suffer from the effects of wild parsnip and do not have to worry about potential contamination to fields and pastures.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) supports the use of approved herbicides to control noxious and invasive weeds on private property and public areas. We fully expect individuals and all governments to respect the law and fulfill their responsibility to control these weeds, including wild parsnip. It’s what we need to put the needs of our farm workers, rural residents and Ontarians ahead of this weed.