Controlling Weeds

Jul 18 2011 0 Comments Tags: land, soil, weeds

I often read that "a weed is just a plant growing in the wrong place".  This is a sweet quote, and very true in the garden.  This link has some great tips and explanations about weeds in organic gardening.

Lantana on the side of the road in the South Burnett - its hard to control when birds spread the seeds
However, in the wider world, weeds are not so sweet.  The QLD Dept of Primary Industries says:
Weeds cost Queensland an estimated $600 million annually and have significant impacts on primary industries, natural ecosystems, and human and animal health.
The weeds that get declared in QLD are targeted for control because they have, or could have, serious economic, environmental or social impacts.  For the most part, this means that they are difficult to control (ie invasive) and/or potentially toxic to livestock.  


Unfortunately our Nanango property seems to have several examples of declared weeds and even some of national significance!  These include lantana, groundsel and prickly pear.  For all declared weeds, landowners must take reasonable steps to keep land free of pests, significant fines apply if the DPI chooses to enforce this.  We have the extra incentive of needing to remove all weeds that are toxic to our stock (this link is a great, if slightly daunting, resource). 


Lantana (Lantana camara)


The South Burnett seems to be particularly infested with lantana.  Normally they would be an ideal plant for me, they seem to grow every easily, in fact it grows EVERYWHERE on the side of the road.  However, they are toxic to cattle, at best it can cause liver damage, at worst it will kill them.  I can't believe that they want to eat it, because it stinks, but when we accidentally left one bush in a paddock after clearing hundreds of plants, the first thing the cattle did when they got in there was eat the lantana bush. So it is a never ending battle to keep lantana off our property because it is spread by birds, and there are so many sources of the berries for them to eat.  We have spent many many weekends removing lantana from paddocks before we could let in the cattle.  We have tried poisoning the bushes, but have found that they grow back, so unfortunately, the most effective weapon is a mattock.  This is hard work, and needs to be repeated every few months, however the smaller the bushes the easier they are  to remove.  You have to get ALL the roots, as they can grow back from any roots that remain.  After a couple of years we have got to the stage that the lantana just doesn't grow to a decent size (I think the cattle trim it back), so it is worth the effort to remove the large bushes.


Groudsel bush (Baccharis halimifolia)
I hadn't heard of this one before we found it on our property, but its lucky that a visitor noticed it and we looked it up, as it is a declared weed and toxic to stock.  This one has been responsive to spray so far.  We sprayed it with woody herbicide AND round-up, and it looks pretty dead (we had a "grove" about 20 m long in our creek area).  I keep finding saplings, so as with lantana, its important to keep walking around your property and pulling out any weeds when they are small and easy to control.


We had a grove of groundsel bush, but I think its all dead now.
Prickly Pear (Opuntia stricta)
Fortunately we don't have heaps of prickly pear, and only small ones at that.  They seem to be infested with a bug that's been introduced to control them, so we just mattock out any that we see and they stay under control. An interesting history of this plant in Australia is given here.  The series of unfortunate decisions is also an example of the unintended consequences of industrial development.

We also have African love grass and probably heaps of other undesirable grasses and weeds!  We are trying to spread seeds of good grasses (mainly Creeping Bluegrass, Rhodes and Green Panic), in the hope that they will out-compete the weeds.  At the same time we are trying to keep the paddocks slashed, but not over-grazed and gradually improve the fertility with manure, the slashed weeds/grass and minerals (so far just nutra-min, but soil test coming soon for more targeted application of minerals). 

Do you have weeds on your property?  How do you control them?


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