WeedBioControl at Henty Machinery Field Days

Media

Barry works with nature to control weeds on farms

As Australia’s only commercial weed biological control specialist, Barry Sampson will be at this year’s Henty Machinery Field Days helping farmers with chemical-free solutions.

Mr Sampson debuted his business, WeedBio Control, at last year’s field days after a 30 year career with the NSW Department of Primary Industries as a weeds biological control officer.

Biological agents, including weevils, moths, mites, beetles and rusts, are available for problematic weeds, such as St John’s wort, horehound, Paterson’s curse, bridal creeper, thistle, dock, prickly pear, blackberry, heliotrope and thorn apple. The larvae and adults feed on the crown, leaves and roots, leading to the death of the plant or reducing seed production.

Mr Sampson, of Wagga Wagga, began his career with the Prickly Pear Destruction Commission before transferring to the weed bio control unit within the NSW DPI in the early 1980s. “Like a lot of people, I thought biological control was crossing a blowfly with a beetle and trying to wipe out everything,’’ he said. “Unfortunately that mind set is still there but it is lessening. Biological control is all about working with nature.’’

Mr Sampson said the majority of farmers, land occupiers and government bodies wanted to reduce their chemical use on weeds. He said the key to sustainable weed management was an integrated program using biological, mechanical and chemical control.

Mr Sampson has worked with farmers on the NSW southern slopes where bridal creeper has emerged as a problem. He has introduced a rust and leaf hopper to control infestations, with reductions of 60-80 per cent achieved over four to six years.

The field collection of the control agents is conducted according to their life cycles. “During the drought the agents held their own despite the terribly adverse conditions,’’ Mr Sampson said. “In 1992, the first release of the leaf miner was made, the population rose then plateaued, and was maintained during the drought. As seasonal conditions improved, numbers have increased.’’

Mr Sampson said biological control aimed to make weed control more manageable and cost effective in the long term. He said bio agents were ideal in hilly terrain where other control methods were expensive or unsafe.

In the higher rainfall zones, farmers with St John’s wort infestations have access to a mite with the capacity to reduce plant density and vigour by up to 60 per cent

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