Farmers' perceptions of the scale of the bracken problem on farms in less favoured areas in England and Wales.
Farmers' perceptions of the extent of bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) encroachment on upland farms was summarized from a postal questionnaire done in 1988 of nearly 1000 EEC type 3 and 4 farms in the Less Favoured Areas (LFA) of England and Wales. A total of 526 questionnaires (53.2%) were returned. In 1987, bracken occupied about 20% of upland grazings. In total, 12 090 LFA farms in the sample area owned and rented 1 206 117 ha, of which farmers estimated that 154 054 ha supported bracken in varying densities. An additional 427 577 ha of commons had 136 095 ha of land with bracken. Thus, 1 ha in every 5.6 ha of upland grazing was estimated in 1987 to have had bracken on it. Despite worries about the continuing spread of bracken, farmers estimated that bracken of LFA farms in Wales had declined by 1.8% during the past 10 years. In England, the estimated av. rate of increase was 2.5% over the same period. A national control programme against bracken was favoured by 68% of farmers, 7% were against and 25% were undecided. These results are discussed in the light of other recent studies on the distribution and rates of spread of bracken in Britain. Both the advantages and problems of using postal questionnaires in work of this kind are emphasized.