Eight pigs are currently working on ridding the woods behind the KVI-Cart of hogweed. It’s just a test, but Mark Bloeming, head of site management, has hopes for a continuation.
Giant hogweeds are a serious problem at the Zernike campus. The plant is everywhere in the wooded areas and along the sides of roads. Not only does prolific plant pushing out more ecologically valuable plant species, but it can also cause horrible blisters when people touch it.
Mowing the plants down doesn’t work, says Bloeming, because as long as the roots remain intact, the plant easily grows back. He doesn’t want to use chemical pesticides, and besides, those are illegal. ‘One day, a colleague told me about this company that rented out pigs to fight hogweed.’
It didn’t take him long to think about it. ‘Pigs like rooting around in the dirt and they’re not picky’, he says. ‘That means they’ll eat the hogweed roots and all.’
For the past week, eight pigs have been gorging on the plants growing rampant in the woods behind the nuclear particle accelerator institute. Facilities management has cordoned off the area with an electric fence. An employee checks on the pigs every day, but they mainly take care of themselves.
For now, it looks like the pigs are doing good work. Whether that means the test will be continued, Bloeming doesn’t know. It’s mainly important that other parties that use the Zernike campus, like the city and province, join in on the effort.
‘A chain is only as strong as its weakest link’, says Bloeming, pointing to the other parts of the Zernike campus, like the bicycle path to the Linneausborg, where the hogweeds are flourishing. But if this test shows eradicating the plant like this works, and if there’s a budget for it, Bloeming is optimistic that the city and the province will join in.