Badgingarra weed problem: curse or salvation?

29 Aug, 2001 10:00 PM
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THE Agriculture Protection Board (APB) has told concerned Badgingarra residents that controlling the spread of Paterson's Curse was their problem.

APB executie director Rob Delane told a public meeting organised to discuss the matter that the agency was hamstrung by the legislative powers conferred by the Agriculture and Related Resources Protection Act (ARRPA).

The local landholders had called the public meeting to discuss the problem of Patterson's Curse, with some believing a tougher APB presence would bring salvation, while others hoped for less draconian options.

Mr Delane made it plain that the APB, with limited financial and physical resources, needed to find "cost-effective solutions" and could only increase the pressure if it was assured of strong community support.

The APB will generally restrict intervention to a problem that is affecting more than 5000 landowners, although the type of response can also depend on whether the problem grew because the landowners couldn't control the pest, or whether it was because they "couldn't be bothered".

Section 50 of the ARRPA allows the APB to issue an order outlining the control and eradication work that the landowner must carry out, while a section 52 order allows the APB to have the work done at the landowner's expense.

Patterson's Curse is native to the Mediterranean region and was introduced into Australia in 1840 and has now infested 33mha in southern Australia (its seed remains viable for seven years and it can produce 30,000 seeds per square metre).

Various researchers outlined the extent of the Patterson's Curse problem, with a wide range of herbicides providing good control in crops, but very little available to control the pest in pastures.

Spray grazing using 2,4-D or MCPA can give good results when treating pastures and because it doesn't like cultivation, no-till cropping with knife points aids its in-crop survival.

Biological control is still "promising" rather than a reality, but it seems that control and not eradication will be the most probable result, with six moths, beetles and weevils already at work in the district.

Patterson's Curse produces Pyrrolizidine alkaloids which can damage the livers of grazing animals, but it also makes the plant less palatable and the pasture far less productive.

The plants mature quicker than the pasture species they compete with and require only nine plants to cover one square metre, and there is strong anecdotal evidence that they inhibit the germination of other species.

The meeting heard strong suggestions from amongst the 70 landowners present that section 52 orders should be issued in great numbers, while equally strong voices were raised against it.

One farmer claimed that "eradication is impossible after the first plant seeds" while another suggested that farmers should just "build sprays into the budget," with many also criticising the claim that "if it's also called Salvation Jane, it can't be that bad".

The meeting eventually decided that a single solution wouldn't work, passing a motion seeking greater input from the APB "in a manner appropriate to the property and circumstances concerned".

But it also finished on a positive note, with a reminder that the "Badgingarra Shears" would be on again this year on September 7 and 8.

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