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WAR ON WEEDS – progress!

From Nepean Conservation News September 2006

Allan Main reports that the Keith Turnbull Research Institute at Frankston has been conducting trials for the biological control of Bridal Creeper – Asparagus asparagoides. (Smilax) with some success. The leaf hopper, Zygina sp. has been released at selected areas since 1999, the rust fungus, Puccinia myrsiphilli since 2000, and the leaf beetle, Crioceris sp., since 2002. The rust has really taken hold. The hoppers (bred and released by local primary school children) have had more restricted success, evidently where local conditions suit it. It is still too early to judge the success of the beetles for control.

Allan adds “members may not realize that this is a widespread problem from Victoria to Western Australia. For instance it is particularly bad on Kangaroo Island, and is a menace to citrus orchards in the Murray irrigation area. That is why the work is being funded by the CSIRO, Weeds CRC, the Natural Heritage Trust, and the Environment Conservation Council. The best method for homeowners to use is the repeated spraying with herbicide for years. A great deal of information is available on the web site”. http://www.weeds.org.au/WoNS/bridalcreeper

Members are warned to be cautious using glyphosate i.e Roundup-type herbicides, use according to directions, cover yourself up well, and apply carefully as spray drift can kill adjacent vegetation. Glyphosate should not be used near waterways, and possibly does not break down properly in our sandy soils. Organic Interceptor, a herbicide based on pine oil, works on young smilax at 20:80 dilution Visit website : www.organicinterceptor.com.au

Parks Victoria Environment Ranger, Sue Mahoney confirms that rust has taken off since it release at Koonya Beach and Ivanhoe Street, Sorrento, and commented, “.. wind-dispersed (and possibly carried by foxes), it damages Bridal Creeper by reducing the photosynthetic surface of the leaf and by tricking the plant into diverting energy from tuber reserves for the Rust’s use, instead of being used for growth and flowering purposes. Biological controls do not eradicate weeds. They will reduce it but they will never eliminate them”.

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