Welcome to Upfront Outback
Your wish is our command
In 2015 we held meetings in Hughenden, Nelia and McKinlay to present DCQ’s revolutionary Prickly Acacia eradication techniques and technologies. The 131 landholders were so impressed that they asked us to get regulatory consistency across all the Mitchell Grass Downs, not just the part in the Desert Channels region.
We have since worked with governments to deliver, first an expanded Area Management Plan (AMP) under Queensland’s Vegetation Management Act, then a new Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) permit, both covering the northern Mitchell Grass Downs outside the Lake Eyre Basin.
The former allows efficiency and cost reduction gains by shifting the focus to only protecting mature native trees, while the latter delivers even further gains by allowing the application, under strict conditions, of low cost residual herbicide in previously restricted areas.
This new APVMA permit applies the same rules to the Flinders, Saxby and Cloncurry river catchments as an existing permit has for the northern Lake Eyre Basin since 2014. It allows the application of tebuthiuron residual herbicide in dry water courses, around the perimeter of dams and within depression lines in rangelands and non-crop areas under DCQ approved weed control plans.
Now, landholders across the Mitchell Grass Downs, both in the Lake Eyre Basin and the Gulf catchments, have consistent rules, as well as the same opportunities to beat Prickly Acacia which is now impacting 22 million hectares of prime grazing land.
Over the past five years, by using innovation, technology and customised regulatory tools, we’ve developed and refined a Prickly Acacia eradication program that has slashed costs, restored rangelands pasture productivity and given hope to landholders that this explosive colonising species can be stopped.
We’ve worked with Queensland Government departments and universities in NSW and Qld on emerging technology to accurately map weed densities and prioritise control areas to plan, cost and strategically eradicate this Weed of National Significance.
Our ongoing trials with industry partners and Government on application techniques, new technologies, pasture recovery, movement of chemicals in different soils and weed seedling recovery continues to provide valuable underpinning data for a program that has delivered a 99% kill rate with less than 1% seedling germination after 4 years, and grass production recovery in under three years.
A key component of keeping you informed is the photos we share through these pages of Upfront Outback, as well as our Facebook page, website and the newspapers. So we figured we should try to make them as good as they could be.
WIth that in mind, our team got together with the Lake Eyre Basin Rangers for a photography training day with Deb Scott of Outback Pics. Deb has been taking extraordinary photos of the landscape and its people for many years and was keen to share her expertise.
The day was not only about composition, lighting, perspective and story, Deb showed us how to get the most out of the new generation of cameras found in tablets and phones, and why storage and management are so important in this digital age where images seem to proliferate of their own accord.
Show and tell
Our Prickly Acacia Eradication Program is not just about the amazing efficiencies and economies our well-oiled team achieves, it’s also about passing their knowledge and techniques on to landholders to spread the load and multiply the successes.
Not only have we been doing this at field days, we recently held a training day at Edgbaston to upskill Bush Heritage Australia staff for their work in protecting the unique Great Artesian Basin springs that support a number rare and threatened plants and animals, more than 20 of which are found nowhere else on the planet.
Part of the challenge of protecting the springs is cost-effectively eradicating the Prickly Acacia thriving in the moist, surrounding soil – the thorn-clad limbs of this Weed of National Significance provide refuge for feral pigs that can root up and virtually destroy a small spring, and its inhabitants, in a single day.
The denizens of the Edgbaston spring group includes the threatened fish, Red-finned Blue-eye and Edgbaston Goby, as well as 15 previously unknown plants, 11 species of snail, a dragonfly, a spider, a crustacean and a flatworm. Of these, only the Goby is found anywhere else: a bore drain fish survey we undertook several years ago identified a small outlier population of the Edgbaston Goby that had established itself about 20 kilometres away in an artificial wetland fed by a property bore drain.
Miracles do happen, but we can’t afford to be complacent.
Show and show
As usual, at the local shows, our field blokes were inundated with people wanting to pick their brains on the best ways to get rid of weeds, particularly Prickly Acacia. And there is nothing like having the experts on hand to explain it rather than a poster or pamphlet – not to sell printed material short, but you can’t ask the page for clarification.
At Isisford in May it was all about most effective way to apply residual herbicide, while at Muttaburra in June, the focus was on the DCQ Prickly Acacia Eradication Program, when it was coming back into the immediate area, and how landholders could get involved.
At this stage, we have applications in with our investors and we’ll be letting people know as soon as we do.
Feral pig second phase
Our long-running Channel Country Feral Pig project has wound up after seven years of celebrated success. Tens of thousands of feral pigs have been taken out of the system across more than two million hectares of the Channel Country, and a project that started with a lot of input from DCQ has now been taken over by landholders and the Channel Landcare Group.
Landholder, many of which are running their own ground and aerial shooting campaigns have agreed to take over the maintenance of the network of monitoring cameras set up as part of the original project. Our Regional Agriculture Landcare Facilitator, Doug Allpass will still support ongoing efforts, and assist with coordination, but the Channel Landcare Group is going to supply the batteries and SD cards for the cameras, and the landholders will change them and send the cards to DCQ for analysis.
So if you have time on your hands and would enjoy the challenge of checking and categorising images, let Doug know on (07) 4658 0600.
Our commercial arm, DC Solutions, has a variety of projects on the go, from weed control to fire threat management and environmental surveys. On the weed control front our major work is for the Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR): Prickly Acacia control along the road network of the Central West, linking up with DCQ and landholder initiatives; and Mother-of-millions control on the Blackall to Adavale road.
The Mother-of-millions infestation across Ravensbourne Creek on the Adavale road has been a source of consternation for TMR and local landholders for many years. DC Solutions’ survey work over the past few years has mapped the extent of the infestation to an eighty kilometre section of Brides and Ravensbourne creeks.
DC Solutions is currently trialling different methods to find the most cost-effective one to eradicate this pest from the road reserve; hopefully, this will provide the template for DCQ to then work with landholders to attack the wider infestation. Blackall Tambo Regional Council has assisted by providing machines to push vehicle access tracks to the treatment sites.
Over the past year we have developed a close relationship with our sister groups, Fitzroy Basin Association (FBA) out of Rockhampton and Burnett Mary Regional Group (BMRG) out of Bundaberg. This relationship has seen FBA provide us with some specialist services that we haven’t had in house; it has also seen us sharing our field expertise with BMRG (see next story).
We recently hosted CEO of BMRG, Sheila Charlesworth, when she headed west to see how we do things in the back blocks, looking for collaboration opportunities. What she found was that DCQ has a very different operational model to BMRG: they are devolvers of grant money whereas we are very much a practical, hands-on organisation with the ability to do the research and development to deliver our extraordinarily successful Prickly Acacia Eradication Program.
Sheila said she was blown away by what we are doing and considers DCQ is leading the way on the use of drone technologies in weed control. She went away with a headful of ideas and opportunities on how we might partner with BMRG on their projects.
Mountain in the mist
For the past few months, our field team blokes have been rotating from the flat western plains to the 1,100 metre summit of the Great Dividing Range north of Dalby, the Bunya Mountains. No, they haven’t been having staggered holidays, although there has been quite a bit of staggering involved, they’ve been using their weed control expertise and vast practical experience to assist the award-winning Bunya Mountains Murri Rangers on important reclamation work.
These indigenous rangers are working to restore ‘balds’ small areas of grassland habitat degraded by more than a century without traditional fire maintenance. This has involved working up and down steep mountainsides, treating weeds, clearing shrubs and repairing walking tracks. While the last three are a piece of cake for our blokes, the first one is very foreign to their flatlander legs.
The Bunya Mountains work is part of our collaboration with the Burnett Mary Regional Group.