Project Platypus has a long history in invasive plant control in the upper Wimmera catchment having an ongoing weed control program for the last ten years. The majority of work has been achieved through herbicide application with manual removal of various species used where appropriate. It is the aim of the spraying program to achieve good control outcomes by using the correct and lowest impact method possible. Where possible, herbicides that pose the least risk to the operator and the environment are used with all legislated regulations strictly adhered to.
Work undertaken by Project Platypus spray teams includes works for landcare group members using grant funding, work for regional natural resource management authorities such as catchment management authorities and general weed control works for landholders on a commercial basis.
Major weed threats to the upper catchment
The distribution and number of species that pose a threat to the upper catchment is continuously changing. With a steady flow of vehicles, stock and fodder coming into the area, the introduction of new species and emergence of infestations is a constant problem. A good example of this is the emergent problem of Bathurst Burr that prior to the drought years of the last decade was relatively uncommon in the upper catchment but is now fairly widespread due to the amount of fodder that was brought in from outside during this time. There are many species of invasive plants that potentially could become established in the upper Wimmera catchment that are currently found in neighbouring catchments or have a potential range (rainfall requirements and climatic conditions) that encompass our area. Project Platypus, government authorities and local landholders are waging a constant battle to stop the spread of established invasive plants in our area and to eradicate those that are in the emergent stage of distribution before they become established.
Environmental or agricultural weeds; which one and what is the difference?
Weed species can be classified as an environmental or agricultural weed with some species fitting into both categories.
These are species of introduced plants that are able to invade, proliferate and in worst cases dominate native ecosystems. The damage caused by these species is not necessarily measured in dollars but in the loss of native habitat and integrity of areas of native vegetation. An example of an environmental weed commonly encountered in the upper Wimmera is Bridal Creeper which is easily transported by birds excreting seeds from an infested area into adjacent bushland. Bridal Creeper is a very effective competitor and will establish in areas of pristine bushland, not requiring soil disturbance or clearing of vegetation/leaf little to get its roots into the ground. Once established, Bridal Creeper will continue to proliferate and eventually dominate an area.
These are species that cause more of an impact on agricultural production with the damage usually measured in dollars and cents in lost production. Examples of agricultural weeds commonly encountered in the upper Wimmera are Cape Weed, various annual grass species like Brome and Rye grass and Onion Grass which is in fact not a true grass but a broadleaf herb.
Some species can be classified as being both an Environmental and Agricultural weed having the ability to impact on native ecosystems and agricultural systems. Spiny Rush, Paterson’s Curse and Horehound and good examples posing a threat to native vegetation communities and agricultural production.
As an environmental organisation, Project Platypus is focused on the impact of weeds on local ecosystems and biodiversity. As a community organisation serving the local landcare and farming community, Project Platypus is also concerned with the control of agricultural weeds and impacts they have on sustainable agricultural production in our area.
Did you know…?
Sheep’s Burr (Acaena echinata) is actually a native perennial herb which is often presumed to be an introduced weed. Due to its spikey seed heads that produce burrs that stick to socks and animals fur (hence the name), Sheep’s Burr fits the bill as a weedy plant; an undesirable way of dispersing seeds and an ability to grow in thick infestations around paddock trees and sheep camps. Sheep’s Burr is one species that is part of a healthy natural ecosystem that can be a problem to wool producers (and bush walkers!) for the couple of months a year when burrs are present.