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Asulam for 2024 and beyond

On the 13th October, UPL, the manufacturers of asulam, announced that a decision has been taken to cease further work on a permanent solution for the use of asulam. 

It is clear that without the support and evidence that UPL would have provided, the application for an emergency authorisation to allow the use of asulam in 2024 cannot succeed; therefore, an application will not be submitted. This will mean that there will be no asulam (Asulox) available for bracken control in 2024 and beyond.

A link to the UPL letter confirming this can be found here. 

Emergency Authorisation for 2023

The application for Emergency Authorisation for the use of Asulam for bracken control during 2023 has been approved in England only. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have refused to grant approval to use asulam for bracken control in 2023. 

To ensure that the conditions attached to the approval are complied with, everyone intending to apply Asulox to control bracken must read and understand: the full approval and the latest version of the product label included in the above document.


The key points of the approval are:

  • In England only, application of asulam is authorised from 1st July 2023.
  • To minimise interaction with breeding birds, where feasible, application should take place after 1st August, or as late in July as possible.
  • To protect mammals, application is not allowed where the hazel dormouse is known to breed. It remains in force for the 2023 season from the previous year, see below.
  • Aerial application using low drift nozzles has been authorised subject to an aerial spraying permit being obtained: HSE will provide template application forms on their websiteA separate Aerial Spray Permit must be granted by HSE for each job before work can take place.
  • Ground-based application has been authorised for conservation areas. Further details are in the approval document.
  • There is no change to the no-spray buffer zones included in previous authorisations. Further drift trails will take place in 2023.
  • Livestock must be removed from areas to be treated and must not be allowed to return until at least 1 month after treatment.
  • The EA period will end on 11th September for placing Asulox on the market and for use - no spraying is to take place after this date.
  • Returns of unopened containers will be accepted by distributors; it will be illegal to hold stocks of Asulox after 27th October, where the EA period will end for storage and disposal of stocks.

As previously, Asulox will be available through nominated distributors in 1,000 litre and 20 litre containers. This year, with thanks to UPL for agreeing to this, Asulox will also be available once again in five litre containers.

Refusal for Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland

Further information on the decision not to approve asulam to control bracken can be read in the refusal letter linked below. 

Refusal letter for Wales & Scotland for Asulox 2023 (PDF)

Refusal letter for Northern Ireland for Asulox 2023 (PDF)

The main points are:

  • HSE does not consider that the benefit of addressing the danger outweighs the potential for harm.
  • Against the requirements of article 53 for emergency authorisation applications, the assessment this year identified a number of risks and concerns which the HSE concludes to outweigh the benefits proposed by Asulox.
  • For over 15 years, Asulox has been withdrawn in the UK with emergency authorisation granted for the previous 10 years. This year being the 11th. During this time, no meaningful progress has been made on bringing the need for further emergency approval to an end.
  • Data gaps have been identified with benefits to address.
  • It becomes difficult to characterise this as an emergency situation upon these repeated applications and this year has been decided as not meeting criteria for the situation to be considered exceptional.

Dates for 2023

19 Jun 23 Emergency Authorisation issued Storage, promotion, sales, and transfer authorised.
1 Jul 23 Application of Asulam can commence.
11 Sep 23 Expiry date: for sale & distribution and use of stocks. Storage of stocks can continue, and stocks can be moved for disposal.  Asulam cannot be applied after this date.
27 Oct 23 Expiry date: for  storage and disposal of stocks. It will be illegal to store Asulam after this date.


Asulox Records 2023

Please refer to Bracken Control Group - Records for further details.

Hazel Dormouse

The approval for 2022 states that “to protect mammals, application is not allowed where the hazel dormouse is known to breed”. This restriction applies to asulam application from the air and ground.

Additional guidance has been issued by CRD & Natural England and can be viewed here.  As there are very few confirmed records in Scotland, this guidance only applies to England.

The Permit System - Guidance: 

All aerial spraying must be carried out under a permit issued by the Chemicals Regulation Division (CRD) of HSE.

An Application Plan template must be completed that lists the jobs it is intended to carry out; CRD may need to consult conservation authorities as part of the permitting process. 

There are different Application Plan templates for the different parts of the UK and the 2023 forms for England are available from the HSE website.

Asulam Registration

Following the ending of the approval to use Asulam for bracken control on 31 December 2012, temporary, annual arrangements have been put in place to allow the use of Asulam for bracken control to continue. Approval has been subject to the terms set out in Emergency Authorisations granted by the Chemicals Regulation Division (CRD) of the Health & Safety Executive.

The continued availability of Asulam cannot be guaranteed, but the Bracken Control Group is working with all parts of the bracken control community to promote the value of Asulam for the control of this invasive species.  

Asulam offers selective control of bracken and it has approval for aerial application.  These characteristics are unique to Asulam, which makes its use for bracken control very important.  Additional justification is submitted as part of the applications for an Emergency Authorisation, which can be viewed by following the link in the section above.

The support being provided by CRD, which is the relevant agency for the whole UK, is very gratefully acknowledged.



Medium Term Availability

The current arrangements are that if Asulam is to continue to be available without a break, Emergency Authorisations, submitted by the BCG, will need to be approved each year.  There are no guarantees that this will be possible.

As part of the EA application submitted for the 2022 season, the BCG has asked that consideration be given to  conducting a review of the approval process, with a view to finding an approach that will provide more certainty.  After 10 years of applications, it is difficult to justify this issue being considered as an emergency.


Long Term Availability

To achieve long-term availability, the authorisation holders for the active ingredient, asulam, UPL Europe Ltd (UPL), who are also the owners of the product Asulox, need to register the product.  This is an expensive process and requires an investment of many £100,000s.

UPL started the EU application process for the registration of asulam, the active ingredient in Asulox, for bracken control in 2013 under EU regulations.

Since the application process started, concern has been raised about the endocrine disruptor (ED) status of asulam. Resolving this is likely to take at least three years starting in 2023.  

If the results of he ED research are favourable, and the application for  asulam is successful, a further application for registration of the product, Asulox, under GB regulations must then be submitted.  

As a result of this lengthy process, full registration of Asulox under GB regulations is unlikely before 2029.