Weed workshops gather producer insight for heliotrope management manual

Twenty-four farmers, agronomists, weed specialists and technical officers joined staff from Local Land Services and the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) in Coonabarabran for a workshop gathering local knowledge on Blue heliotrope on Thursday, 30 March.

Blue heliotrope is a drought-hardy, agricultural weed that is especially problematic in pastures due to its toxicity to stock.

The workshops, organised by Wild Matters, are part of a series of activities in developing a Blue heliotrope best practice management manual to assist land managers to tackle the problem weed.

Central West Local Land Services Regional Weeds Coordinator Jodie Lawler said the manual was one of the outcomes from a partnership between NSW DPI and Central West Local Land Services.

“In June 2021 LLS and DPI started a multi-year initiative to tackle the problem weed including the development of the manual and investigations into potential biocontrol solutions,” Mrs Lawler said.

“We ran a survey last year to gain producer feedback and the current workshops allow us to further explore local knowledge to understand how the weed behaves and to identify control success in various regions and under different land-use types,” she said.

“We extended invitations to locals we knew had experience controlling the weed, to hear their views and use the information to build on existing knowledge.”

NSW DPI Senior Research Scientist Dr Andrew McConnachie said there was a need for a comprehensive, best-practice management manual to help people tackle Blue heliotrope.

“Blue heliotrope is a problem weed across the state and into Queensland,” Dr McConnachie said.

“Given it is such a difficult weed to control we need multiple approaches in our toolbox, as well as comprehensive knowledge on the ecology and biology of the plant, to help people with control options,” he said.

Biocontrol solutions include the already released Blue heliotrope leaf-feeding beetles and DPI are in the initial stages of testing a Blue heliotrope flea beetle in its native range of Argentina.

“Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet, however, we will keep working to develop tools and resources to help in the weeds fight.”

The Blue heliotrope management manual is scheduled for release online late 2022.

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