Kitchen condiment tackles weeds with flavour 


A sprinkling of vinegar replaces pesticides

An unexplained craving for fish and chips while strolling through the village can be traced back to a few backpacks filled to the brim with pickled vinegar.

While most people carry lunch or a change of clothes in their packs, municipal work crews have been strapping on clear packs full of vinegar, complete with a nozzle and spray hose.

Their mission: to attack the unsightly weeds poking through the paving stones throughout the village.

The vinegar is killing weeds dead like any good pesticide, without the harsh environmental ramifications of spraying chemicals.

"So far it’s proven to be pretty effective," said Paul Beswetherick, the municipality’s landscape supervisor.

"It’s certainly better than using most of the registered pesticides."

While registered pesticides are required to list the active ingredients in their make up, there is no law insisting on a list of the carriers in the pesticide.

Some of these carriers, which act as a spreading agent or a bulking agent, are a cause for concern, said Beswetherick.

Past studies have linked some pesticides to different types of cancer in humans, from breast cancer to non-Hodgkins lymphomas.

Pesticide use is also linked to toxicity in watercourses, which in turn harms fish and wildlife.

The municipality has been exploring the use of vinegar for about two years as it strives for a pesticide-free operation.

Beswetherick said the vinegar backpacks are still in the experimental stages.

"We are expanding our testing but it still is in a testing phase," he said.

"We’re assessing what’s going on and keeping a close watch on it."

While vinegar may be an effective short-term solution, there are concerns that it may not sustain its capabilities over the long-term, he said.

"We have to maintain the quality of the product at the same time... We’re really making sure that we’re on firm ground before launching into the abyss."

The municipality’s experiment is running in conjunction with an American study in Maryland by the Agricultural Research Service.

Agronomist Dr. Jay Radhakrishnan has been working on the vinegar experiment for almost two years and is very happy with the results to date.

"I think the implications are tremendous," he said.

"It’s great for the environment and it’s also good for the organic farmers."

The U.S. research team has found that spraying a five per cent concentration of vinegar, the equivalent of household vinegar, can have a 100 per cent kill rate of certain weeds like Canada thistle.

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