Weeds in the spotlight

Weeds are a huge cost to the grazing businesses. They put productivity, the environment, and livelihoods under pressure. More than 50 people attended weeds field days to discuss solutions.

Invasive weeds are a serious problem in North Queensland, threatening the region’s economic and environmental sustainability, and early intervention is key to management.

Six BBB properties have joined forces to form a Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) Producer Demonstration Site to trial a cooperative and integrated approach to the management of the highest priority weeds on their grazing properties. 

The LDC project is supporting the group by helping to facilitate activities, and to provide access to equipment and technical expertise.

Two field days were held in March, at Sonoma Station and Gee Dee Road, to update the BBB grazing community about the successes and challenges of the various approaches being trialled.

The main take home message was that graziers who were having significant success in managing their major weeds, was through an integrated approach focusing on:

  • biosecurity;
  • consistent and vigilant management of weed occurrences; 
  • adoption of the latest technologies; and 
  • maintenance of vigorous pasture to ensure competition with potential weed species. 

Using a digger to remove chinee apple.

Stan and Judy Fordham, Emohruo Station.

Participants at the field day, held at Sonoma Station.

Results from using a excavator mulching head to remove woody weeds.

Host for one of the field days, Shane Watts, of Sonoma Station, spoke about weed control works being carried out, the resources used including chemical, mechanical and biological, and the biosecurity management and monitoring program implemented across the property.

An effective biosecurity plan needs to tackle weeds and pest animals simultaneously. In this region deer and pigs are major weed spreaders, and they roam across property boundaries.  This is a major issue for every grazing enterprise, and very expensive.
— Sonoma Station grazier, Shane Watts

 

Landholders were particularly interested in the demonstration of various machinery implements including the mulcher head, woody weed sucker puller, platter gun, mister, and Quik spray units. 

A quality line up of speakers ensured enthusiastic discussions throughout the whole day.  

A quality line up of speakers ensured enthusiastic discussions during both days: 

  • Shane Campbell, University of Queensland, woody weed specialist;
  • Ken Springall, Independent agriculture consultant and woody weed specialist;
  • Jim Fletcher, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries;
  • Melissa Hayes, Whitsunday Regional Council;
  • Mark Perkinson, Bowen Collinsville Landcare Group;
  • Owen Howard, Bowen River Cluster Group (demonstration of Epple Skattergun for controlling small infestations of prickly acacia and other weeds);
  • Gerard Dogao,  PGG Wrightson Seeds; and
  • Rodger Walker, Landholders Driving Change.

Future field days are planned and the BBB community will receive a ‘Save the Date’ notice ahead of each one.

Barry O’Sullivan, Glenalpine Station, demonstrates a tree puller that grabs hold of small trees then pulls them up and out completely, roots and all. Landholders indicated due to the powerful pulling performance of the attachment, they could use it to clear large areas effectively, or for more selective removal of saplings.

Field day participants discuss weed management approaches on creek and riverbanks.

Grant Davy and Warren Woodhouse.

Barry O’Sullivan, Glenalpine Station and Chair of the MLA Integrated Weeds Management Group pictured with woody weed specialist Shane Campbell, University of Queensland.

LDC’s Rodger Walker.

Bristow Hughes, Strathalbyn Station, discusses approaches to tackling woody weeds along waterways.

Field day participants making their way back to the shed following a demonstration of a tree puller pulling prickly acacia.

Wendy Grant, John Grant, Stanley Fordham and Gerard Dogao (Sales Agronomist Central and Northern Queensland PGG Wrightson Seeds).

Bowen Collinsville Landcare Group vice chair Mark Perkinson provides an overview of the equipment the group owns to help manage woody weeds.

Jim Fletcher, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF).

Participants at the LDC-MLA Integrated Weeds Management field day held at Sonoma Station.

Shane Watts, Sonoma Station, and host of the LDC-MLA Integrated Weed Management field day talks about the various weed control methods he is trialling, including the splatter gun, pictured.

Wendy Grant, Barry O’Sullivan, Nathan Sims and Solomon Minniecon.

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KEQ #1

Figure 1. Total fine sediment reduction by project type and erosion source. Inset shows the proportion of the total project area for each project type.

These estimates have been calculated using two methods: 

1) The pollutant reduction component of the Alluvium/Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF) investment tool for hillslope and streambank erosion management projects; 

2) The Reef Trust Gully Toolbox method for gully erosion management projects. The LDC Water Quality Report 2020 (Waterhouse et al., 2020) highlights that a number of assumptions underlay these calculations, therefore these figures should be treated as the best available estimate of sediment reductions to date.

Preventing sediment from reaching the Great Barrier Reef

Each wet season sediment is washed into local waterways and out to the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). 

Most sediment is very fine, and can stay suspended for a long time and can travel great distances. Valuable topsoil is lost from production, and increased concentrations on the reef can be harmful to seagrasses and corals. 

Landholders in the BBB have completed 69 on-ground water quality practice changes, and it is estimated that these have contributed a fine sediment reduction of 6,154 tonnes per year from reaching the GBR. 

Of this, approximately half of the sediment savings are attributable to grazing land management changes on hillslopes and streambanks, and the other half as a result of gully remediation treatments across a broad range of scales, as shown in the graphs above. 

The table below also highlights the relatively small area of intervention in the gully management projects compared to the large sediment savings that these can achieve - 60 per cent of the sediment savings over only 4 per cent of the project area.

Table 1. Estimated sediment reductions (tonnes) from projects completed in the LDC Project to date.

KEQ #2

*GLMWW = Grazing Land Management Wire and Water

KEQ #3

*The Exploring New Incentives activity area has provided an opportunity for graziers to adopt improved land management practices through a range of activities. For some of these properties, it was the first time they signed contracts for on-ground works.

KEQ #4

The LDC project monitors four gully sites (represented in this table) with gold standard equipment and analysis, carried out by CSIRO.

Results have been compiled in a preliminary report from Bartley et al (2020), with the final report expected to be released by the end of 2020. The preliminary report shows all four sites have indicators of improvements, notably the Strathbogie and Mt Wickham sites.

KEQ #5

KEQ #6

KEQ #7
KEQ #8

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Reef regulations - grazing, standard conditions

  1. For land in good or fair condition (more than 50 per cent ground cover at 30 September), continue using measures to maintain land condition.
  2. For land in poor condition (less than 50 per cent ground cover at 30 September), steps must be taken to improve land condition.
  3. For land in degraded condition (less than 20 per cent ground cover at 30 September), steps must be taken to improve land condition OR prevent areas from further degrading or expanding.
  4. Keep records of measures taken and also of agricultural chemicals, fertiliser and mill mud or mill ash applied to land.
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