Our groaning world.

Our Farm "Rivendell"

Our Farm “Rivendell”

This article was first published some years ago (perhaps around 2009.)

Let me first give some details about Australia’s lust for ‘crop and weed spraying’. BY 2006 our annual use of herbicides was over 18 000 tonnes and for insecticides over 8000 tonnes, fungicides another 3000 tonnes. This is the un-adulterated product. At a generally advised mix of 200 mls of the herbicide or insecticide per 100 litre of water that then gives every person (20.000.000 people) more than 600 litres of chemicals in which to spray crops, weeds. You could happily spray a litre per day and have plenty left at the end of the year. You can understand why we are leaving such an enormous ecological hoof/footprint every time when leaving the rural produce store. We are fond of chemicals.

Check it; http://www.environment.gov.au/soe/2006/publications/drs/indicator/196/index.html

So, once a year the farmer receives a letter with a date whereupon a ‘Noxious Weed Inspector’ will come out to inspect weeds. He arrives in a large 4W drive car with a Shire logo painted on its doors and will ask how the poisoning of weeds is progressing. I generally act evasive and vague which is my nature and easy to comply with. He soon picks up on my lack of enthusiasm for spraying and killing dreaded weeds. After ten minutes or so of country banter we start on a walk towards the infestation of weeds along the river that might have survived or overcome the latest spraying of toxic poisons. I try and bring the conversation over to the subject of herbicide resistance. There is now a slight change in the demeanour of the Noxious Weed Inspector.

What makes a good Noxious Weed Inspector anyway? Do burning desires and ambitions lay dormant for years in a person before breaking out in an all consuming drive to become one? Is a fixation with weeds something one is born with, genetic predisposition perhaps? Are now, after all those years of study and hard work the essence of Weed Extermination in danger of being thwarted by “herbicide resistance”? How fickle life can be for Noxious Weed Inspectors.

http://www.weedresearch.com/summary/countrysummary.asp

We now have the world’s second largest list of herbicide resistant weeds, 53 listed weeds resistant to herbicide, including the Serrated Tussock. Herbicide resistance is, simply put, the ability for plants to develop genetic change and become resistant to the poisons. Nature has this amazing ability and iron will to survive. It only takes mankind to really defeat them.

Rivendell

Rivendell

The problem is that most weeds thrive in areas that have been over-stocked, over cropped, over fertilized and generally exploited for too long a period. Weeds are taking their revenge. The battle between farmers and weeds is not being won by the farmers it seems.

Our paddocks just have a very common but very invasive weed, Serrated Tussock. It is an escaped little plant from South America but the focus of much scorn and debate amongst Weed Inspector socials. It is invasive but allowing paddocks to lay fallow and allow native vegetation to restore a balance again seems a better option than spraying.

We don’t make a living at all from farming, so for real farmers weeds are taking away part of their income. Certainly letting land fallow seems a luxury that not many can afford. However, the enormous cost of fighting weeds chemically might well become a worse option now. About 2.5 % percent of total farm cost in use of chemicals in 1988 has risen to 9% of total farm cost in 2006.

Monsanto is looking smug here.

Our weed inspector is not too keen on talk about herbicide resistance and quite rightly sees this as another attempt and an inroad on his authority to order killing weeds. He increases the speed of walking and furrows are now on his forehead. I appease and talk a little about the high cost of the chemicals recommended for killing weeds. The cost of those chemicals is between $350. – And $550. – Per twenty litres.

Wollondilly river at Rivendell

Wollondilly river at Rivendell

He tells me he will impose an inspection cost/ fine of $110. – For any non compliance, he emphasises. Years of study, experience and inspectorial knowhow now come to the fore.

I casually tell him of NSW Water Catchment Authority and their concern of flow on of toxins in the river that at the end flows into the Warragamba Dam. That water will eventually be consumed by the people of Sydney. Never mind that. Just think of the platypuses. They get a direct king hit as soon as the herbicide washes into the river. Our small acreage has almost two kilometres frontage to a river, hence another reason for us not to be keen with spraying Glyphosate, Flupropanate or other chemicals with even more sinister names.

From our perspective and experience over the last fourteen years, it has shown that weeds will thrive under stressed conditions. Spraying with chemicals has often marginal results. They come up even more and stronger next time around. In any case, the weeds now have’ heroically,’ developed herbicide resistance.

Our former farm's kitchen

Our former farm’s kitchen

Our Weed inspector has now finished his tour of duty and has given me the option of getting a contractor out who will spray, not just the weeds by spot spraying, but do the job by boom spray. A boom spray is a contraption of a series of spraying nozzles on a five or six metre boom towed behind a tractor that will spray a swath of weed killers over the lot. The weed killer is ‘selective’ and will have a fantastic ‘residual’ quality, he enthuses. He is throwing everything at me now but somehow senses my sullen reluctance to weed killing and toxic mixtures. He again mentions the ‘$110. – Inspection/fine.

The advice of chemical suppression is against the latest science. Problem is that the Noxious Weed Act is from 1993 (Section 18) and that Australia’s worst weed, the Serrated Tussock, has started to morph into a most resisting little weed. Herbicide spraying only gives it even more room next time around as native competing vegetation has been removed as well. Its dormant seed bank just sprouts up with even more chemical resistant tussock babies.

http://www.regional.org.au/au/asa/2003/c/18/kemp.htm

I tell him I will consider, but quietly reckon the inspection fee will be the preferred option, especially for the weeds. The platypuses have been giving a reprieve. The wombats are having a ripping time building and manning the ramparts. The blackberries continue with their impenetrable wall for future defence.

The Noxious Weed Inspector drives off.

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31 Responses to “Our groaning world.”

  1. rod Says:

    I found this hard to believe, though I’m sure it’s true. It seems you are living under a repressive regime. Weed inspectors? The approach here is entirely wrong. Your resistance is good, but it sounds as though a change in the law is required here.

    Like

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      What is even stranger is that anyone can get unlimited access to all those chemicals, many with residual ‘qualities’. No questions asked nor license required. Yet, organic farmers are licensed and have the strictest conditions attached before they can sell their produce under the ‘organic’ label. Go and figure that one! It is all favoured towards the large chemical conglomerates.
      An organic farmer can be wiped out when chemical spray dust is blown over the produce contaminating the whole crop.

      Like

  2. Big M Says:

    Great kitchen, l can see the Oosters pottering around in it. I’m. Not surethat glyphosate is the worst in the world, as it oxidises quickly if not taken up by a plant, but, as you say, many weeds are already resistant. I think you have the right idea, some land back to native bush, some rotated through cycles of being allowed to go fallow, green and animal manuring, etc.

    Like

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Right now with so much rain here in NSW, all is green and tussocks are being crowded out. But watch farmers increasing their live-stock levels and the next drought will again see overstocking and the weeds will take revenge.
      That kitchen was great especially with slow combustion wood stove. Many a fine curry was cooked in it and it kept the place nice and warm in winter.
      How is Italy? Mrs M enjoying a well deserved holiday? Say hello to her from H and me.

      Like

      • Big M Says:

        Italy is terrific, we were in Valbrona, a little town over looking the eastern arm of Lake Como, then Verona for ywo days, then off to Venice today. Hope you are both well.

        Like

  3. Andrew Says:

    Benign neglect. The best approach. Works on husbands too. I don’t let our gardener spray anything either.

    Like

  4. Curt Mekemson Says:

    I was out cutting blackberries yesterday (grin) and will soon be up to my elbows yanking out star thistle. I confess to occasionally using spray but do everything I can to minimize its use. I am in complete agreement with you. Fortunately we don’t have a weed inspector but there is always a push to control noxious weeds. –Curt

    Like

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Blackberries as so many other weeds were introduced in Australia. In Tasmania it has almost overtaken all. Goats are the perfect remedy for blackberries. Mind you, in some areas goats have become a pest. It’s not easy.
      Weed inspectors need weeding out. Far too many of them driving around in giant 4w suv’s. Farmers have been known to put padlocks on gates preventing entry!

      Like

  5. berlioz1935 Says:

    Should that not have been the obnoxious Weed Inspector?

    I have no idea how the farmers can cope with all those regulations which seem to be a means to keep the chemical industry in business.

    Like

  6. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    I must agree with Berlioz. Our world is being sabotaged. BTW, you farm is beautiful. Difficult to leave I imagine.

    Like

  7. gerard oosterman Says:

    Yes, it was, but we still have all our good memories, especially the good times had by our grandsons.

    Like

  8. petspeopleandlife Says:

    Your posts have been going to my spam box at yahoo. Guess Yahoo is filled to the brim with yahoo “incompoops.”

    This is an excellent topic and I think Aussie land must have more of a noxious weed problem than the US. We don’t have weed inspectors here. You can spray if you want to inflict damage on the good things and pollute the environment.I have never in my long life ever used a weed killer or a pesticide. I can’t work in the yard as I once did but I hire a guy to hoe weeds and or pull weeds and to use the gasoline powered weed eater. I have lots of good flora and fauna that includes birds. butterflies, bees, and lizards. I would not have those things if I resorted to the killer sprays.

    Like

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Thank you Yvonne.

      Perhaps it is more of a case of ‘easy come easy go’. Australia sometimes takes the easy way out and what is easier than going around spraying all that impedes on a quick buck.
      On the other hand Australia is not an easy country to farm. There are dingoes and wild dogs that can kill dozens of lambs in a few hours, there are pests including fly-strike on sheep whereby flies lay eggs and when they hatch they eat the sheep alive.
      Droughts and flooding rains etc. Dreadful isolation and huge distances from infrastructures such as schools, hospitals, lack of internet coverage and so much more.
      Even so, experts say Australia’s reliance on spraying toxins all around is wrong and old hat, and we should do things more ecologically responsible.

      Like

  9. Rosie Says:

    I am in the process of selling my home and 8 acres – in order to move into civilisation. Too old to be a hermit now. None of the cattle farmers spray around here – the farms are large and are not overstocked. However the cattle are regularly treated internally and externally for all manner of things – which is scary.

    Like

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      We sold our lovely farm a few years ago too. It was getting too much and even though we miss the lovely life and space we are very happy in our townhouse. We walk to the shops and used the car less and less. It is nice to be greeted on the street by people on our walks and we still have an abundance of nature just minutes away.
      I used to get annoyed by all that injecting and ‘drenching’ of animals for all sorts of thing. We stopped doing it and over the ten years or more of breeding animals, nothing ever dreadful happened. I suspect the veterinarian/pharmaceutical industry is also fanning it.
      It all showed up in the female volunteers that had their breast milk examined and analysed.
      We also had a farm in Holland with a couple of horses and sheep but there was none of that push for endless injecting and 5/1drenching. ( Three times a year)

      Like

      • Rosie Says:

        Having made the decision to move into a large town I now can’t wait to walk everywhere, shop for what I want on the day and become involved in a community again. It has all become too hard here – way too much work.

        Like

  10. Big M Says:

    There is in interesting article on salinity at the abc site, sorry, haven’t worked out how to cut and paste a url into a comment on this tablet. Anywoo, land that is literally salt scarred is being partialy restored with perrenial salt and blue bush. Within a couple of years of treatment, sheep cab run on land that was previously caked with salt. The trick is to run much less stock, and allow these plants to flourish on a cyclic basis. The land is only partially productive,but way better than nil.

    Like

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      I think West Australia has a big problem with salinity. I drove through the wheat growing areas years ago and there were those blue green lakes of salt water. I thought this was due by vegetation having been removed and of irrigating the land. There are now attempts pushing the salt back by growing bushes and shrubs as you pointed out.

      Like

  11. Hung One On Says:

    Will goats eat the tussock Gez, seems they eat anything

    Like

  12. Adrian Oosterman Says:

    There are couple of books available that one must read re weed control.
    Try the ” The Untrained Environmentalist ” John Fenton and the other is by a person with the last name of Walker ?
    He was featured in Australian Story and is a close friend of Gerry Harvey. His work on his and other properties was just amazing.

    Like

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, I think I saw that program. I think he built a series of embankments trapping water and run off. He improved land use by almost doubling the growth of feed. Thanks Adrian. ( are you related to the Oostermans of Rotterdam?)

      Like

    • Rosie Says:

      I, too, saw that show – a pity more attention was not given to his findings.

      Like

  13. hilarycustancegreen Says:

    Alarming post. Of course the real weeds are humans, without us the environment would be just fine.

    Like

  14. paul walter Says:

    I can sense the frustration, oozing out of the pores of your skin, Gerard.

    Like

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