The producer group I am a member of are running a twitter information session to highlight the important work that producers and farmers do in regards to environmental issues on their properties.
For us, our David and Goliath battle is with Belly ache bush (Jatropha gossypiifolia). When we first purchased this property nearly 5 years ago, there were small stands of Belly ache bush, we sprayed and controlled in small areas what we could but for some reason the last 2 years there has been a prolific explosion of the weed throughout our river system., Honestly I’m getting my arse seriously whipped by this weeds infestation, but theres not much else I can do but poke around at small pockets.
I attempt to spray and control where I can access, but physical access is extremely difficult in such rugged terrain of river systems and enscarpments. In my view Belly ache bush has the potential to be the absolute catastrophe of the river systems in the Roper Gulf. Biological control is being worked on and I hope it is succesful because quiet frankly, short of napalming the river system I don’t see how mechanical, physical or chemical means can control this noxious plant.
The following is an extract from the Territory Governments ‘Greening the Territory’ Management guide on Belly ache bush, 2011, and ‘Weed management plan, 2010.
Bellyache bush is a shrub, native to Central and South America. It was originally introduced to Australia as an ornamental plant. It is likely that it was introduced with other Jatropha species, into the Darwin Botanic Gardens approximately 100 years ago.
Bellyache bush is one of the most aggressive and poisonous weeds in the dry tropics of northern Australia. It forms dense thickets, excluding pasture and other vegetation. It can take over grazing land, reduce biodiversity and restrict access for mustering.
As the name suggests, bellyache bush is toxic when ingested. The fruit and seeds contain a toxic protein, which can lead to gastro-enteritis and potentially death in humans and animals. Stock deaths have been attributed to bellyache bush poisoning, particularly during drought.
February 2012. Belly ache Infestation along the Hodgson River.
There were plants so tall in this stand that they were over 6′ high and so dense I couldn’t ride a four wheeler bike through this area There is also some Neem trees at this site.
March 2012 – I cheated I stuck the D5 dozer into this and cleared as much as I could without knocking the beautiful gums, (though some have scars to bear witness), I have to be careful not to push the belly ache so far it will actually fall into the main river stream which is only another 30m beyond the thick bushes. I then spray the whole area with Starane and Brush off. This is to attack both the Neem trees and Belly ache bush.
March 2012 – This is the same area as the top photo but looking in a different direction. Many of the small seedlings are Belly ache germinated seeds that have come up after rains. I will continue to respray these areas while the seedlings are still small.
January 2013 – This is the same area where I had cleared with a dozer 12 months previously and sprayed at least on two occassions. It was resprayed again in 2013. That is a bellyache bush at the very front of picture that is about 0.5m tall.
I could walk around this same area now and still find bellyache plants that are viable and producing seeds, while I may be regaining control in this small pocket on the large scale scheme of things I know there are major infestations both upstream and downstream.
In March of this year I applied for a government grant through the Community Landcare grants 2013-14. A scheme funded by Federal government with inkind support by local landcare groups and producers. The application was refused.