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Waging war on Tropical Soda Apple

Tropical soda apple plantNorth Coast Local Land Services is working with a range of partners across the entire North Coast region to tackle the spread of the Class 1 noxious weed, Tropical Soda Apple.

Tropical Soda Apple is an aggressive, prickly shrub that readily invades riverside and pasture areas. It spreads quickly and impacts agricultural land, forest, riparian zones, roadsides and parks, displacing native or existing plants. The plant is a host for many diseases and pests of cultivated crops, and it contains solasodine which is poisonous to humans. It is spread through cattle movement and baled grass, by flood, as well as by other animals that eat the fruit such as deer, pigs and birds.

There have been many isolated outbreaks of Tropical Soda Apple across the North Coast Local Land Services region, with substantial investment from state and local governments to try and stop it from taking over our valuable farmlands. Recent research undertaken by Local Land Services has shown that the number of Tropical Soda Apple infestation sites have grown from half a dozen in 2010 when it was first discovered to over 25,000 locations in the last five years.

Tropical soda apple fruitThe spread of Tropical Soda Apple can be attributed to movement of contaminated cattle that had recently eaten the fruit (and therefore seeds) being sold or moved to un-infested catchments. Tropical Soda Apple seeds are not affected by the digestive processes in cattle and are ready to sprout in the manure pats in the right weather conditions. The other main cause of the rapid spreading throughout catchments of cause has been floodwaters.

In response, North Coast Local Land Services is teaming up with a range of partners such as Orara Valley RiverCare Groups, Coffs Harbour Bushland Regeneration Group, Mid North Coast Weeds, Far North Coast Weeds and Coffs Harbour, Clarence Valley, Nambucca, Kempsey and Port Macquarie Hastings Councils - just to name a few - to help combat the highest priority weed infestations across the region, depending on local need.  We are also working closely with New England Weed Authority and Northern Tablelands Local Land Services.

These projects are supported by North Coast Local Land Services, through funding from the National Landcare Programme and Catchment Action NSW. Senior Local Land Services Officer, Max Osborne, said “Weed control is a labour intensive and costly business, so any financial help is always welcomed by councils, landholders and environmental groups.

Max continues, “In the southern part of our region, for example, we’re assisting Kempsey Shire Council employ a specialist Tropical Soda Apple weed officer to undertake Tropical Soda Apple weed inspections on private properties. We are also contributing towards the costs for weed contractors to treat this Class 1 noxious weed in difficult terrain along the Macleay River riparian zone.”

Shaun Morris, Senior Land Services Officer is managing a project in the central part of the region with Orara Valley RiverCare Groups and Coffs Harbour City Council that is targeting approaches depending on land type.  Shaun said of the project, “We’re encouraging landholders who have identified Tropical Soda Apple in riparian areas on their property to contact the Orara River Rehabilitation Project Officer at Orara RiverCare.

“Floods can be a major factor in the spread of Tropical Soda Apple which is why we are specifically focusing on riparian areas in our project” he said.

It is important for all landholders to be vigilant and if they identify Tropical Soda Apple on their property to contact their Council Weeds Officer.

Landholders are reminded to stop livestock from grazing and moving through areas with Tropical Soda Apple, and to check cattle handling facilities, cattle camps and yards for seedlings and new infestations.

Using the National Livestock Identification System, North Coast Local Land Services and Far North Coast Weeds have identified five new outbreaks of Tropical Soda Apple in the north which have been transmitted by moving infected cattle from other infested sites across the region.

It is strongly recommended that livestock recently transported be held in a quarantine area for six days to minimise spread of the weed. Any grass baled from properties containing Tropical Soda Apple cannot be sold or moved off that land, and landholders should be vigilant about checking any bought silage for the weed. The plant can grow from a seed and be producing fruit within 8 weeks, so landowners have to act quickly to stop the seed production cycle.

Both Max and Shaun reiterate the importance of landholders being aware, “All farmers need to be vigilant, searching their properties regularly and controlling this weed promptly.

“Unfortunately, you can’t simply spray it and forget about it - you need to collect the fruits too, removing the seed from your property and stopping the spread downstream by floodwaters and by stock moving around and off your property.

“Landowners should also plan to return to treated infestation sites every 2 months to ensure no seedlings have popped up” they concluded.

As a ‘Class 1’ weed, it is the responsibility of landholders to report occurrences of this weed within 24 hours of detection. If you believe you may have Tropical Soda Apple on your property, please call your Local Council Weeds Officer for further advice on the best methods of control.

Media contact:

Shaun Morris, Senior Land Services Officer Coffs Harbour 6659 9402
Max Osborne, Senior Land Services Officer Kempsey 6563 6410
Jai Sleeman, Senior Land Services Officer Lismore 6623 3917

Photo captions: Tropical Soda Apple plant and fruit, a Class 1 Noxious Weed