Weed app helps to protect profitability

25 May, 2016 09:09 AM
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Members of community and biosecurity groups can use smartphone and tablet devices to identify, survey and report weeds and view results online.
Members of community and biosecurity groups can use smartphone and tablet devices to identify, survey and report weeds and view results online.

GRAIN growers have a better chance of identifying, mapping and managing declared weeds with the launch of the mobile device app, MyWeedWatcher.

Designed and developed by the Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA), the app is intended to improve surveillance of high-priority declared weeds that will have an impact on agriculture.

Department development officer Tamrika Lanoiselet said declared weeds affected production and profitability and also had an impact on WA's access to high-value international markets.

"The new app joins a suite of pest-surveillance applications developed by the department to protect agriculture from biosecurity threats," Ms Lanoiselet said.

"The agricultural weed surveillance in the South West sub-project, which is part of the department's Boosting Biosecurity Defences, has identified 20 high priority declared weeds to be targeted - 15 selected by department experts and five by the community."

Targeted weeds include gorse, bedstraw, wheel cactus, skeleton weed and cotton bush.

Community consultation was sought in the app's development phase via a workshop and online survey to identify how stakeholders wanted to report declared plants and the information required to report and manage them.

"Detailed web pages were developed for each weed to enable community members to identify, control and report weeds, and materials were developed to help individuals or biosecurity groups control priority weeds," Ms Lanoiselet said.

"Feedback from stakeholders shaped the development of MyWeedWatcher app, which enables users to use a smartphone or tablet device to identify, survey and report weeds direct to the department and view results online."

A guide helps users to identify weeds according to the plant's characteristics, including the type of plant, flower colour and leaf shape.

A reporting feature then maps the location of the weeds and adds photos and other information provided, such as the density or number of weeds and any weed control undertaken.

These reports are sent directly from mobile devices to the department for identification or verification and potential response, while outcomes are mapped online.

"In instances where there are reports of C1 weeds, which aren't present in WA, and C2 weeds, which are slated for eradication, department staff will verify the photos and reports before releasing them to the map," Ms Lanoiselet said.

"Department staff will also determine the best course of action for C1 and C2 weeds, such as control recommendations.''

Ms Lanoiselet said improved agricultural weed surveillance in the South West was expected to assist stakeholders' response to, and management of, high-priority declared plant infestations, and subsequently increase industry profitability.

"The app and its survey tool will also help recognised biosecurity groups determine their weed management options," she said.

People without a mobile device can report declared weeds to the department's website at agric.wa.gov.au by searching for weed surveillance.

More information about the MyWeedWatcher app will be available at workshops on an improved biocontrol method to control wild rabbits, organised by the department and Invasive Animals Cooperative.

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