Bamford Edge was established to investigate the effectiveness of three different bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) control methods; bracken bruising, bracken cutting and herbicide application. Bracken is an invasive weed of upland and marginal land; occurring in dense stands it reduces biodiversity, potential grazing area and the conservation value of upland heath and acid grassland.
Bracken bruising involves using heavy machinery to produce small bruises on the stem and of the fronds. It is thought that bruising helps to “bleed” the rhizome of resources but physiological studies of bruised fronds on this experiment shows that this is unlikely.
The experiment consists of three replicate blocks of 70m x 50m. Each block is divided into six plots 20 x 20 m in a randomized block design. There are six bracken control treatments: untreated (control), cut twice a year, cut three times a year, bruised twice a year, bruised three times a year, asulam application once a year as overspray followed by annual spot application until bracken extinction.
This experiment has tested a series of bracken control and vegetation restoration treatments over an 8-year period. The experiment has shown that bracken bruising is insufficient to control bracken growth at Bamford Edge, with only a marginal reduction in height and density as compared to control plots. However, either cutting two and three times a year or an initial application of asulam, followed by annual spot treatment of all fronds, has been shown to be very effective at controlling bracken growth.
Since 2013, the treatments have been discontinued and bracken recovery and associated effects on ground flora are being monitored, effectively measuring ecological resilience.