Bush Rangers quiz PHBG on weeds

On the 31st May 2016 Jonelle Cleland , Executive Officer of the Peel Harvey Biosecurity Group, held a two hour weeds workshop at Waroona District High School with the Bushranger Cadets.

Bush Rangers WA is a youth-based conservation and community development program run by the Department of Parks and Wildlife. It supports young Western Australians to take an active role in the conservation of the natural environment and better understand the mechanisms for its management.

Below are some of the questions asked by the Bush Rangers about weeds-

What are weeds and how did they get here?

The Australia Government defines a weed as:

A weed is any plant that requires some form of action to reduce its effect on the economy, the environment, human health and amenity. Weeds are also known as invasive plants. Many plants introduced into Australia in the last 200 years are now weeds.

A weed can be an exotic species or a native species that colonises and persists in an ecosystem in which it did not previously exist. Weeds can inhabit all environments; from our towns and cities through to our oceans, deserts and alpine areas.Some weeds are of particular concern and, as a result, have been listed for priority management or in legislation.

How do you get rid of weeds?

Unfortunately there isn’t one recipe for weed control, how much easier would that make weed management! Luckily however there are lots of resources available that provides specific information on a weed you may be having trouble with. These include the Department of Agriculture and Food WA, Herbiguide, and of course your regional Biosecurity Group can answer your queries on weed control.

How do they spread?

Weeds typically produce large numbers of seeds, assisting their spread. They are often excellent at surviving and reproducing in disturbed environments and are commonly the first species to colonise and dominate in these conditions. There are lots of different ways plants use to help their seeds spread. Some plants use animals to move their seeds this is called animal dispersal. Seeds dispersed by animals are usually barbed or sticky and stick to an animal as it brushes past, or they are yummy so an animal eats them or stores them in their burrows. Other weeds use wind dispersal to spread, their seeds usually have wings or other hair or feather-like structures, and they produce lots of them. There are also plants that use water to move their seeds, these are mostly aquatic plants or plants that live near water.

Water Hyacinth, a declared weed, clogging up a waterway

Water hyacinth is one of the worlds worst aquatic seeds and can double its mass in five days. It spreads on water using floating seeds and growth from new stems called stolons.

Blackberry, a declared weed, growing on a hillside

The blackberry is a declared pest in WA and is spread through fruit eating mammals and birds. Each single berry can contain 20-30 seeds.

Cotton bush seeds are small and feathery

Cotton bush is a declared pest and spreads on the wind using its small feathery seeds.

 

How do they get their names?

A plants scientific name is made made up of its genus and specific name for example blackberry Rubus fruticosus– Rubus (genus) fruticosus (specific). A plants common name generally arises from the local name for that plant and can be descriptive. Some examples of common names include the blackberry, cotton bush, nut grass and onion weed.

Can they kill humans?

The short answer is yes some weeds are toxic to humans. Weeds, like many plants, can be poisonous when consumed or create allergic reactions when brushed up against. Some weeds are especially dangerous because they have brightly coloured berries that are attractive to young children. Many more weeds are toxic to livestock as they are more likely to consume them in the paddock or in hay if it is baled up in an infested area.

A short list of weeds that can be toxic include- apple of sodom, blackberry nightshade, cotton bush, deadly nightshade, thornapple, lantana, cape tulip, and arum lily.

The best way to find out if a plant on your property is a weed and/or toxic is to use the MyWeedWatcher App to I.D your weed and find out the weeds specifications and correct management options available.

There isn’t a way to tell from looking at a plant if its poisonous or not. Be on the safe side and wear long sleeves and pants if playing in weedy areas and don’t put them in your mouth!

How do you identify them?

There are lots of resources available in identifying weeds including the internet, books and now Apps!

Bush Rangers Quiz PHBG on weeds

DAFWA’s new MyWeedWatcher App can help you identify weeds.

How do you stop weeds from coming back?

There are some weeds that have seeds that can be viable for longer than 10 years, which means that one weed control application often wont be enough. Some weeds are best controlled using chemical methods, some can be controlled by mowing or slashing, some need to be physically removed or even burnt. The best ways to ensure success is to correctly identify your weed so you can control it in the most effective way, for example to effectively spray nut grass you must spray it before it forms its 6th leaf to ensure the chemical is taken into its underground node, that’s very specific!

Before commencing weed control its important to have a plan so you don’t waste time and money. The Peel Harvey Biosecurity Group has a Weed Management Plan booklet that can help you plan out your weed control efforts in advance, find it here to download.

Bush Rangers quiz PHBG on weeds

 

The Peel Harvey Biosecurity Group was excited to host the workshop for the  at Waroona DHS Bush Rangers program and hope to work with them again in the future on protecting their local area from declared pests and weeds. If you would like more information on Bush Rangers WA then follow this link.

Pantry Blitz- Do you know what bugs you’re living with?

You are invited to take part in an exciting new citizen science activity to uncover the secret lives of the pests living inside your pantry cupboard. Register now for the Pantry Blitz!

Citizen Science- the collection and analysis of data relating to the natural world by members of the general public, typically as part of a collaborative project with professional scientists.

Participants will place a pest trap inside their pantry cupboard for one month and use the free reporting tool MyPestGuide to submit pest reports for identification. Participants must register to receive a free pest trap in the mail. Traps are placed inside the kitchen pantry then once a week for a month you send in your observations. This is a great activity for the kids (as well as adults) to learn about biosecurity and bugs! Recommended you register early for this fun activity as pest trap numbers are limited.

The data you collect will be used to keep Western Australia free from harmful exotic pests. Your reports can make a difference! When making a report you are in fact also helping to protect your local food producers, the people who manufacturer your food products and those employed to deliver and supply you with good quality foods.  So, partner up with the Department of Agriculture and Food, WA to help protect our food, environment and livelihoods from damaging pests by observing what’s in your household pantry and reporting what you see.

What sort of bugs are you looking for?

Pantry Blitz- Do you know what bugs you're living with?

Pantry Blitz – Watch out for the sweet potato weevil!

Of all the sweet potatoe pests this one is the worst!

The sweet potato weevil Cylas formicarius (Fabricius) causes damage in the field, in storage, and is of quarantine significance. It’s a pretty cool looking bug but can cause up to 97% damage where sweet potatoe is cultivated. Sometimes the first indication they are there is cutting open a sweet potatoe and finding tunnels and larvae. Recently a vigilant member of the community discovered this exotic pest after purchasing a bag of sweet potatoe from a local super market. The weevil was reported to the Department of Agriculture and Food via its biosecurity surveillance tool, MyPestGuide Reporter app (for the full story click here).

Pantry Blitz- Do you know what bugs you're living with?

Pantry Blitz – Keep a look out for the elephant weevil!

Watch the wine!

This cool looking bug  is commonly known as the elephant weevil, Orthorhinus cylindrirostris. In Australia they are considered a major pest to wine companies as it feeds on grape vines. It is a brown grey weevil with a long slender snout and long forelegs. When not at the winery the elephant weevil adults and larvae feed on eucalypts and a variety of other plants.

Register now!

You can make observations and send reports anytime using the ‘MyPestGuide” Reporter mobile app or via the online reporting webpage. Your reports will be received automatically by the MyPestGuide Team. Department of Agriculture and Food department experts will then identify the pests reported from your pantry, respond to each report and publish the community’s findings on the Pantry Blitz webpage. So don’t forget to keep checking to see your bugs on the webpage.

Rabbits: a costly pest

 Did you know that rabbits are Australian agriculture’s most costly pest animal? Annual costs exceed $200 million!

Pioneer Thomas Austin freed about a dozen rabbits on his property near Geelong, Victoria, in 1859 and by 1910 feral rabbits had covered  most of their present range. This spread was despite control efforts such as the Western Australian Government’s 1700 kilometer rabbit-proof fence, built between 1901 and 1907.

Were you aware that Australian native vegetation is very sensitive to rabbit damage? As few as 0.5 rabbits per hectare can remove all seedlings of the more palatable native trees and shrubs!

Rabbits have been attributed to the extinction of several small  ground-dwelling mammals in Australia’s arid lands and have contributed to the decline of many native plants and animals.

National Rabbit Roadshow

Attendees at the National Rabbit Roadshow

Attendees at the National Rabbit Roadshow hosted by the Peel Harvey Biosecurity Group.

People attending the National Rabbit Roadshow were highly impressed by the evidence presented by the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre and Victoria’s Department of Environment and Primary Industries. It was shown that methods for removing rabbits are generally well researched.

Poisoning, warren ripping and fumigation (when used in combination, rather than as a single treatment) can effectively control, and can even eradicate, the animal. This is particularly so when the methods are used at the right time of year to maximise their effectiveness.

Local landholder and Peel-Harvey Biosecurity Group vice chair, Marion Lofthouse, left the event with a new perspective on rabbit control.

“I didn’t realise that an initial up-front investment in rabbit control, using a combination of methods, could provide a sustained effect over many, many years,” Mrs Lofthouse said. ‘Doing the job properly in the first place makes rabbit control a cost-effective farm practice in the longer term.”

Rabbits and their control

The rabbit- a declared pest.

The rabbit- a declared pest.

Are you interested in controlling rabbits on your own property? Perhaps you would prefer getting a group of landholders together for landscape-scale control?

Either way, get in touch with the Peel-Harvey Biosecurity Group at info@peelharveybiosecurity.info. We can provide you with updates in this space, including the rollout of the bio-control agent, RHDV1 K5 across Australia.

 

Click here for more information.

Cotton bush

Peel Harvey Biosecurity Group helps landowners remove and dispose of cotton bush.

On Wednesday 20th April officers from the Peel Harvey Biosecurity Group (PHBG), Jonelle Cleland and Teele Hooper-Worrell, helped a local landowner pull out some cotton bush plants. It is important that landowners know the correct way to remove and dispose of cotton bush.  Jonelle Cleland, Executive Officer from the PHBG noted that ‘After removing the green seed pods and placing them straight in a bin bag we were able to pull out the mature plants easily from the soil’. Cotton bush is a declared weed and you are not allowed to simply throw the waste in the bin or put it out on your verge for green waste pickup. You must dispose of the seeds effectively, otherwise they are still viable and can spread to another area.

A great way to prevent the spread of the weed is to use solarisation to kill off the active seeds, with the added benefit of composting some lovely soil for your paddocks or garden beds. Solarisation uses the heat of the sun’s rays to literally cook plants, weed seeds, nematodes, insects, and soil pathogens (the “bad guy” fungi, and bacteria that bring diseases to plants) which occur in the top layer of your soil. It also makes nutrients more available to plants later grown in solarised soil.

Below are some steps for successfully solarising cotton bush plants and seeds you have pulled up on your property.

How to remove and dispose of cotton bush.

How to remove cotton bush

Woman removing cotton bush

Jonelle Cleland Executive Officer for the Peel Harvey Biosecurity Group removes cotton bush.

Step 1- If the weed has active pods growing carefully remove and place straight into a bin bag to reduce the spread of the wind borne seeds.

Step 2- pull up the mature plants and stack in an out the way area, on top of an existing compost pile is suitable.

Cotton bush after being removed.

Correctly dispose of cotton bush seeds by placing the seeds in a plastic bag.

How to dispose of cotton bush

 

Step 3 – Place plastic bags of seeds in the sun and leave for a few weeks. After the seeds have been cooked the bags can be placed into the bin.

Step 4- Source some thick clear plastic and spread over your mature plants/ and or seeds and weigh down with rocks or bricks. As an alternative you can use black pond liner but it won’t be as quick. Be careful of snakes that may find refuge underneath the plastic.

Peel Harvey Biosecurity Officers with Serpentine-Jarrahdale landowner with pile of cotton bush.

Peel Harvey Biosecurity Officers with Serpentine-Jarrahdale landowner after being show how to correctly remove and dispose of cotton bush.

Solarisation will occur more quickly in summer, in summer you can use the soil after 5 weeks while in winter you may want to leave the plastic on until the weather starts to warm up.

Children at the Peel harvey Biosecurity Stall at the 2016 Food and Farm Fest

Awareness of cotton bush grows through Food and Farm Festival

The Peel-Harvey Biosecurity Group is working hard to raise awareness of the highly invasive weed known as cotton bush. Members and volunteers manned an interactive stall at the 2016 Food and Farm Fest held on the weekend.

 

The big drawcard of the stall was a kid’s craft activity. Children were engaged in replicating the cotton bush seed pod using play doh, matchsticks and other fun accessories.

child at Peel Harvey Biosecurity Stall at Food and Farm Fest
Jonelle Cleland of the Peel-Harvey Biosecurity Group stated that the intention of the kid’s activity was two-fold.
“Parents are much more inclined to stop and engage in a display if their kids are kept busy. It provides us with the opportunity to initiate conversation and answer people’s questions about cotton bush,” Mrs Cleland said.

 

“The other important aspect is education. We want people to easily recognise cotton bush – the seed pod is the most distinguishable part of the plant.”
Just one mature plant left to set seed has the capacity to produce hundreds more plants the following year.

Peel Harvey Biosecurity Group at Food and Farm Fest 2016

 

The best time to control cotton bush is before seed pods appear. Each seed pod contains many seeds with silky tufts that allow them to spread in the wind.

 

Thanks are extended to the Serpentine Jarrahdale Library for the use of their kids table and chairs. Volunteers on the day included Athol Wigg, Tom Lerner, John and Genny Black, Georgina Hinds, Teele Hooper-Worrell and Jonelle Cleland.

 

Photos supplied by Georgina Hinds Photography