Weed management - don't leave it too late

Weed management is part of whole of property farm management.

There are two old axioms that remains as true today as they were 100 years ago:

  1. If you want your $1m property to be worth $10,000, then do not control your weeds.
  2. The most expensive type of weed control is doing nothing.

Whole of farm/property weed management should be an integral part of your farm management planning to ensure a healthy and productive landscape and ensuring that you get the best productivity use from the land in the way you choose to use it.

How do weeds affect my farm?

Uncontrolled weeds are the most direct detriment to effective land use and productivity through:

  • reducing the potential yield by outcompeting for soil nutrient, and space in production cropping
  • contaminating production (especially seed and grain) reducing value
  • providing vermin harbour that are detrimental to livestock production (e.g. blackberries harbour foxes which attack lambs)
  • reducing useable land by preventing the growth or use of land for desired purposes
  • toxicity or other harmful effects on animals, people, and other plants,
  • the list goes on!

Weeds are not just plants that grow where you do not want them to grow; they can cause issues and impact effective use of your entire property. Weeds negatively impact every aspect of agricultural production but are often one of those things that is left to the last moment until the problem becomes too large to tackle without significant cost and frustration.

Is weed management effective?

Weed management on a whole of farm level is quite simple and effective. The secret is to start early and be consistent.

Just like other effective farming practices, good weed management requires a long-term commitment to ensure that weeds do not negatively impact your desired goals and activities on your land. The earlier you start, and the more consistent you are, this is one of the few farm practices that cost less annually to provide a bigger holistic return to your investment.

How do I create a weed management plan for my property?

Regardless of land use, whether it is agricultural cropping, plantation forestry, grazing or general bushland habitat, the outcome of all weed management is to ensure land productivity is improved through the creation of a weed management plan. Creating a plan can be simple. A well-thought-out plan that takes a strategic approach makes weed management tasks easier, more achievable and results in significant savings of time, effort, and money - both long and the short term.


Step 1: Define your goals

Ask (and answer) questions about your land and why it is important to you. This will help you define your goals.

Questions can include:

  • What do I want to use my land for?
  • What do I want to achieve by controlling weeds?

This will lead to questions including:

  • Am I trying to reduce the fuel load and fire potential on my property?
  • Can I get rid of vermin habitat for rabbits that are interfering with my cropping?

By actively and objectively defining your goals and specifically stating what you want to achieve with weed control, it much easier to develop your plan, particularly in a whole farm management scenario.

Step 2: Weed identification and prioritisation

Once you have an idea of what you want to achieve, it is important to identify what is going to interfere with that goal. To do this you must identify what weeds are present on your property. Often, there will be multiple weeds to deal with.

The best and most cost-effective way of doing this is to request Local Council Biosecurity Weeds Officer inspect your property and provide an inspection report. These reports provide a map of your property, showing where weed infestations are, and provide advice on prioritisation and effective control.

Once you know what species you have on your land, you can make a list; group the weeds according to the priority for control (highest to lowest) and develop a plan of approach that best suits your desired land use. Your local Council Biosecurity Weeds Officer can also assist you with this.

Step 3Research the weeds

Once the weeds are identified, you can produce a plan to deal with the infestations effectively and efficiently. In general, you will be asking questions like:

  • When does the weed set seed?
  • How is the seed spread?
  • Is it an annual or perennial?
  • How does it respond to frost?
  • Does it prefer full sun or shade?

Gaining a better understanding of the target weed and its lifecycle means that you can exploit weaknesses, reduce the potential to produce further seeds and control it at the most effective time. As part of your plan consider developing a ‘weed calendar’ that notes flowering and seeding times and the best times for controlling different weeds.

Step 4: Set priorities – what, where and when?

Take into consideration your initial weed control goals. Do you need to cordon and control a particular species of weed at all costs? Or is it to restore a patch of bushland? Is it to clear more land for grazing? There are tools that assist with this such as the Regional Strategic Weed Management Plans which set the State, Regional and Local priorities for weed management.

Step 5: Determine the best approach

Once identify the weed infestation, where it is, the prioritisation for management, it becomes easy to determine the best approach to controlling weeds on your property to fit in with your whole of property farm use strategy. It is also an effective way to assess your other farm activities to determine if another activity may be causing or contributing to the weed issue. You may even be able to determine what is causing the problem and the best course of action to deal with it in a whole of property use scenario.

  • Commence work from the least affected area, and as weeds are controlled, move into the more infested areas (work from the permitter inwards to achieve positive reduction).
  • Where watercourses are involved, start at the top of the catchment, and work downstream for weeds.
  • Break your site up into small manageable stages.
  • Hygiene is important - keep equipment clean and free from material which can spread weeds both on and off your property.
  • Ensure that any mulch/fodder used is free of weed/seeds.
  • Cordon new livestock in a holding area for 1-2 weeks before allowing them onto the wider property*
  • Match the control method to the life cycle and habitat preferences of the weed. This will aid in taking the best course of action at the right time for success.
  • Document your control methods and assess the success – make copies of your initial map and annually mark your progress.
  • Talk to your Council Biosecurity Weeds Officer for advice and guidance.
  • Discuss your plans and work with your neighbours wherever possible. They may have a similar issue and it is often possible to share jobs, costs, and activities.

Step 6: Tools for the job

The best advice will not help without the right tools. You must have the capacity to do the work required, just like any farm planning. In weed management, this means that the equipment you require will depend on the weed control technique you choose. It is always good practice to identify what equipment you have available and what you may need to obtain. It is likely that you have most of the equipment needed for general and effective weed management on your property.

Step 7: Implementation

No plan will ever work until it is implemented. This is best done by looking at your plan and setting realistic short-term goals that will assist in maintaining motivation.

If you have a large infestation of blackberry, for example, your goal may be to spray the fence line this week. The key is to conduct the work and not get frustrated looking at all the blackberry that you have not sprayed. Look at what you have done successfully so far. Do not think of the overwhelming property issues. Think of what you have done to date that has been successful and what you will achieve tomorrow. This is why you have a plan - do not spread your efforts too thinly; it is best to control smaller areas of weeds in a series of stages. Control of weeds is very rarely achieved after one treatment, it requires persistence.

Step 8: Monitoring

It is important to keep track of the work conducted, the same as it is important to keep track of farm yields, cattle sale costs, food and fodder costs and everything that goes into managing a farm holistically.

Regular monitoring of the weed management site(s) will detect any reinfestation while the problem is still small, and you can then deal with it easily and more cost effectively. It will also allow you to annually inspect your property for any new incursions of something else that was not there before and take the correct course of action while the problem is small. A simple adage to remember with new infestations (when you see something different or just does not look right) is, “if in doubt, check it out.”

In your plan, arrange to start at the same relative time every year from the same spot. Take photos and look at them before you begin. Before and after photos are most effective if they include a permanent reference point in the photo such as a tree, rock, or fence. They are also great confidence boosters showing that what you are doing is successful.

Step 9: Review and revise

Take time to review your plan, reflect on the work conducted, what has worked well and what has not, and revise your weed management plan.

Ask questions such as:

  • Is your management benefiting the ecosystem?
  • Are you meeting the goals that you set in Step 1?
  • Can you maintain the targeted area?

It is important to annually review your strategy and refine your methods. The more weed control you conduct, the more you will learn in terms of what techniques best suit each situation. Don’t be afraid to trial different methods and be prepared to adapt your weed management methods over time. Integrated multiple method weed management is always more effective than one strategy alone.

Step 10: Ongoing monitoring and maintenance

Stay vigilant, continue to monitor your weed management practices while keeping an eye out for, and taking steps to control, any reinfestations or new weed incursions. A lack of follow-up weed control is the most common reason weed management projects fail, and why whole of property weed management too often becomes an overly costly practice.

Good maintenance of the weed space will assist productivity regardless of desired land use and when done effectively and with a plan, be one of the few farming activities that costs less annually with bigger returns holistically across all aspects of the property.

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