Queensland floods will hit farmers with new wave of weed and pest invasions

Feral pig. Photo courtesy CSIRO | Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0)

Queensland farmers reeling from droughts and floods will soon face a third threat as weeds and pests ride the floodwaters into new agricultural areas, the Invasive Species Council warned today.

The council is now calling for recovery funding to include help for farmers to control invasive species.

“Large floods are well known to benefit weeds, feral pigs and introduced fish,” scientific adviser to the Invasive Species Council Tim Low said today.

“The infamous 1974 floods in Outback Australia triggered mass germination of weeds and the spread of carp into new wetlands.

“The recent floods were especially serious around Julia Creek, a region where farmers have been battling prickly acacia, one of Australia’s Weeds of National Significance, a thorny tree from Africa known to do well after floods.

“Prickly acacia infests some 7 million hectares of northern Australia and its reach is increasing.

“Prickly acacia benefited from the 1974 floods by germinating en masse on the drenched ground from seeds spread by water.

“One property on which cattle recently drowned, Eddington Station, has prickly acacia infestations that were controlled recently to benefit the Julia Creek dunnart, an endangered marsupial. The weedy trees can be expected to return with a vengeance.

“Farmers have fences and other infrastructure to repair, leaving them with limited time to control weeds and feral pigs at the very time these pests are benefiting from wetter conditions.

“Fodder given to farmers can add to their woes by bringing in the seeds of weeds that grew among the fodder when it was harvested. Fodder provided after natural disasters is a well-known source of weed problems.

“Governments have offered to help farmers recover, and part of the assistance should be with the control of invasive species such as prickly acacia, Jerusalem thorn, mesquite and feral pigs.

“Climate change is causing larger flood events, and the pulse of weed and pest problems that follow from these are part of the problem climate change poses. A hotter future will be a weedier future,” Mr Low said.

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