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Byron Shire
May 14, 2021

Better ways to tackle bitou

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Dr Richard Gates, President, The Evans Head Living Museum

I refer to the comments of Veda Turner about the bitou spraying program (letters, Echonetdaily July 18) and the need for a more strategic approach to the weed’s management including hand-weeding. To see the success of a bitou hand-weeding program you need go no further than the Dirawong Reserve at Evans Head, where such a program operated for many years under the expert guidance of local biologist Ellen White.

While there has been judicious use of hand-delivered herbicides in difficult-to-get-to places, most of the work was by done by hand. Follow-up of new sproutings over a couple of years virtually eliminated the bitou as native plants were given half a chance to take over the vacated space. Ellen has collected considerable data showing the benefits of her program. The authorities would do well to pay attention to her findings from Dirawong.

Despite much propaganda about the ‘relatively innocuous nature’ of herbicides for native species the evidence shows they are often affected by herbicides. I have seen native plant death first hand in sprayed and drift areas even when concentrations are low.

Criticisms of hand-weeding programs usually revolve around their labour-intensive character but the problem is that no-one seems to have done a proper cost–benefit analysis. Are they truly more expensive? The negative comments may not be deserved.

Ellen White needs to be commended and recognised for the wonderful work she has done with her approach to the management of bitou. Take a look at Chinamens Beach in Dirawong Reserve at Evans Head. There’s the evidence.
It is time for broadacre spraying programs to be reviewed.

bitou-eradication-chinamens-beach-1200px

This area was once heavily infested by bitou. Hand-pulling only was used to clear it.


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