Monday, 6 August 2007

Foot and mouth - mushroom management

Once again, Britain has an outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease although, as I write, the current thinking is that there may have been a leak from a vaccine manufacturer - BBC report.

In our garden we have a problem with toadstools. There is a clear path along the grass showing the route that the spores have taken. My efforts to remove them started off with half-heartedly picking them. This was to no avail as they just grew back. Secondly, I made a concerted effort one year to pick them as they popped their grey heads up. This resulted in a lot of toadstools in the bin but next year they were all back again.

Last year and this, I have bitten the bullet and each time some cropped up I dug them out, complete with the grass down to 3-4 inches and with a 2-3 inch exclusion zone around the patch.

Although this year they are still growing where I haven't dug and I am repeating the exercise, the areas where they were dug out, apart from the odd one have been totally toadstool free.
The areas are actually better off as I planted with new grass seed, which is thriving.

All this has parallels with the F&M outbreak. Last time around, there was a lot of mushroom management by the Government and a very belated approach. It culled wherever there was an outbreak, but failed to stop mini-outbreaks and it was only eventually that a mass slaughter was ordered to try and contain it. The result was the devastation of many farmers' livelihoods, and enduring images of cattle funeral pyres across the country.

This time around, it seems to have learnt and, like my toadstool problem, is starting with a ring of steel and moving in, rather than micromanagement of each pocket of cases, moving the ring out each time. I almost feel a twinge of sympathy for Gordon Brown. He's photographed on his patriotic holiday in the South West yet less than 5 hours later his holiday is over as he's off to London to chair COBRA - the committee set up to manage it.

Shows across the Country and cattle farmers have all been affected again, but let us all hope that the Government has learnt its lesson from last time. I do feel that the current Prime Minister will handle it somewhat better than his predecessor - someone who definitely subscribed to the Mushroom Management cookbook.