War on cotton bush takes to the air

The Team involved in the demonstration pose for a high-quality image taken by the drone.

An aerial attack on cotton bush may become part of the wider war on this weed in the south west, which is fast becoming the scourge of south west agriculture.

Narrow leaf cotton bush (Gomphocarpus fruticosus) is a declared pest in WA and it has been the subject of increasing concern in recent years. It is potentially devastating to agricultural pasture productivity, as it can quickly colonise large paddock areas. As it is toxic and unpalatable to stock, it can render hectares of pasture worthless without ongoing and expensive control measures.

SWCC Consulting recently provided the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPI&RD) staff, local Landcare Officers and farmers with a demonstration of the capabilities of their newly acquired drone in aerial monitoring of this weed.

SWCC’s Operations Manager Steve Ewings said, “There is real potential for drone technology in the monitoring, assessment and control of weed spread, and not just for cotton bush, but any weed. It can provide high quality video and imagery of areas that are almost impossible to access by any other method, and it does so very quickly.”

He added, “After legislative changes were made in Queensland, drones are now being used for weed spraying. Where conventional approaches can’t be used, drones are a safe and effective option and the sky really is the limit.”

SWCC Consulting is part of the fee-for-service work undertaken by the South West Catchments Council (SWCC), the Natural Resource Management (NRM) Regional body for the South West.

Mr Ewings said, “It is important for SWCC to diversify its income, and to be able to do this in a way that also provides a service and assists our farmers in a very real way is exciting.”

By working together, the NRM sector and agricultural sector can better support farmers to manage problem agricultural weeds and improve their bottom line.

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