Men’s Shed vol­un­teers wage war on plant in­vader

Irish Independent - Farming - - NEWS - MAJELLA O’SULLIVAN

IT IS an in­va­sive plant that threat­ens thou­sands of acres of farm­land bor­der­ing the coun­try’s na­tional parks but the bat­tle against the rhodo­den­dron will be strength­ened next week by an army of vol­un­teers from the Men’s Shed move­ment.

Around 60 vol­un­teers from all over the coun­try are ar­riv­ing in Kil­lar­ney, Co Kerry, on Novem­ber 5 and will ded­i­cate three days to tack­ling the highly in­va­sive and de­struc­tive rhodo­den­dron in the Kil­lar­ney Na­tional Park that was in­tro­duced to Ire­land in the early 19th cen­tury.

Suck­ler and sheep farmer, Ge­orge Kelly, from nearby Listry is the out­go­ing chair­man of the Ir­ish Men’s Shed As­so­ci­a­tion.

He said farm­ers needed to be more aware about in­va­sive species and the im­pact they had from an en­vi­ron­men­tal point of view.

“The rhodo­den­dron is ef­fect­ing the pedi­gree cat­tle herds within the park but there is also a lot of agri-tourism sur­round­ing the coun­try’s na­tional parks that are de­pen­dent on them,” he said.

The vol­un­teers will be put up in some of the town’s top ho­tels for the du­ra­tion of their stay and bussed to the na­tional park each morn­ing to be­gin their work.

Lo­cal phar­ma­cist, Fin­barr Ken­nelly, came up with the idea and ap­proached the Ir­ish Men’s Shed As­so­ci­a­tion, the Na­tional Parks and Wildlife Ser­vice (NPWS) and Kil­lar­ney Cham­ber of Tourism and Com­merce for their sup­port.

Hun­dreds of thou­sands of euro are spent each year in the bat­tle to erad­i­cate the plant, which is na­tive to the Black Sea Re­gion and the Ibe­rian Penin­sula, and was in­tro­duced to Ire­land for or­na­men­tal pur­poses.

The NPWS has been im­ple­ment­ing a num­ber of pro­grammes at Kil­lar­ney Na­tional Park to bring the plant un­der con­trol, in­clud­ing a stem treat­ment method.

An in­tern­ship pro­gramme has been run­ning in the park, at­tract­ing stu­dents from a num­ber of coun­tries in the EU. Since 2012, Vol­un­tary Ser­vice In­ter­na­tional has also been run­ning two-week sum­mer camps for stu­dents, who take part in the con­ser­va­tion work to help to con­trol the plant in the 26,000-acre park.

The lat­est ini­tia­tive by the Ir­ish Men’s Shed As­so­ci­a­tion is spon­sored by Haven Phar­macy and has the co­op­er­a­tive of the NPWS and Kil­lar­ney busi­nesses.

Phar­ma­cist Fin­barr Ken­nelly said the project will add to the work that’s al­ready been done by the vol­un­tary group, Moun­tain Meitheal.

“It’s beau­ti­ful to look at when it flow­ers but for the rest of the year, it’s a nui­sance. It’s tak­ing over paths and even block­ing the view,” Mr Ken­nelly said.

The method they’ll use is ap­proved by the NPWS where, work­ing in pairs, one man makes a gash on the root with an axe, and the other sprays an ap­proved her­bi­cide into the gash.

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