[ASC-media] Media release: new weapon in weed war

JCA Media jca.media at starclass.com.au
Tue Nov 21 21:32:40 CET 2006

Cooperative Research Centre for Australian Weed Management

Media Release 06/15 					

November 22, 2006


Australia's land managers have been given a new weapon in the $4 billion war being waged against invasive plants.

A new handbook prepared by researchers at the Cooperative Research Centre for Australian Weed Management (Weeds CRC) sets out a six-step battle plan with backing from Standards Australia.

Dr John Virtue of the Weeds CRC says it's vitally important to put our efforts and funding into controlling plants with the worst potential to become serious invaders.

'For the first time the many authorities fighting invasive plants around Australia have a standard procedure to follow in their local weed war', he says.

Recently returned from running a workshop on the procedure in Panama for the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, Dr Virtue points out that nearly 28,000 foreign plant species have been introduced to Australia since European settlement.

'This is far more than the 15,000 native plant species we know about', Dr Virtue says. Three thousand of these introduced ones have gone wild, and several hundred are aggressively invasive and cost the economy over $4 billion a year.

'To fight invasive plants you have to know your enemy: where they are likely to be invasive, and what impact they could have on other plants or animals, including humans', says Dr Virtue. 

'They damage our economy, our environment, our heritage and our health. We need to be properly trained and well organised if we plan to make an effective stand against them.'

Dr Virtue says the new handbook helps land managers decide the order of attack.  'Many of the authorities tackling the weed menace are very small compared to the sheer scale of the invasive problem', he says. 'They need to know how best to deploy their resources to have maximum impact.'

The six stages in the The National Post-border Weed Risk Management Protocol include setting the management context, listing weeds of concern, analysing the potential threat, assessing the feasibility of control, determining priorities, and finally implementing weed management actions.

'We all recognise that prevention is better than cure,' says Dr Virtue, 'but there's a vast pool of potentially threatening species out there in the Australian landscape - even lurking in suburban gardens - and we have to be confident we are making the right decisions.

'This depends in the first instance on correct identification of the plant, both where it's threatening and where it originally came from. Usually the source is overseas, but occasionally a native plant can become troublesome when moved to a new region,' he says. 

'It's also vital that researchers and land managers can be confident that they are using a world-wide standard naming system for all plants.'

Dr Virtue says that Australian farmers and land managers have greatly increased their knowledge and understanding of the threat of invasive species in recent years. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, some eighty per cent of Australian farms are affected by invasive plants.

'This is not a war which is possible to win for every weed,' says Dr Virtue. 'We have to set priorities, and the new handbook gives us a standard approach.'

Dr Virtue says that complete eradication is probably impossible for most well-established weeds, but by using targeted chemical, management and biocontrol measures, many of them can be contained or cut back, bringing major economic and environmental benefits.

"Part of the six-part process is determining the worst threats, but another is identifying where action is the most feasible - that is, where control is going to be effective," he says.

The handbook, developed by Standards Australia, Standards New Zealand and the Weeds CRC, is intended for use by state, regional and local authorities and major agricultural research organisations in Australia and New Zealand.

'We hope that the handbook will also be a catalyst for more cooperation in decision making in the future,' says Dr Virtue.

The Weeds CRC plans to develop further documents based on the handbook for use by farmers, community groups and natural resource managers.

More information from:

Dr John Virtue, Weeds CRC, 08 8303 9502, 0428 112 943 (available Wed 22 - Fri 
22 Nov for comment)
Dr Rachel McFadyen, CEO Weeds CRC, 0409 263 817
Peter Martin, Weeds CRC, 08 8303 6693, 0429 830 366

Standards Australia is recognised by the Government as Australia's peak standards body. It develops Australian Standards® of public benefit and national interest. SAI Global is the distributor of Australian Standards®.  

The new handbook is available at http://www.saiglobal.com/shop/script/Details.asp?DocN=AS0733774903AT

Images of serious weed infestations are available from Rita at rita.reitano at adelaide.edu.au, (08) 8303 6857

Weeds CRC web site www.weeds.crc.org.au

More information about the ASC-media mailing list