Sweeping generalisations about weed management are not serving the community or the environment well. Could we please separate the discussion into different, though related, areas?
1. Urban parks and public space. This is a focus for many participants in discussion, and the results of trials of the steamweeder will be of great interest.
2. Rural roadsides. Decades ago, the slasher and its side arm were introduced as an alternative to wholesale roadside spraying. The results are beautiful in many circumstances, but the machinery also spreads serious environmental weeds such as Morning Glory, Madeira Vine and, topically, Jumpseed. The side arm smashes Coral Tree into fragments, all of which are capable of growing into new trees. Now we find ourselves needing herbicide to control weeds that spread from the roadside to adjacent private land. We’re possibly not imagining the steamweeder getting around our whole rural road network and dealing with the terrain?
3. Bush regeneration in native vegetation. Skilled bush regenerators efficiently remove competitive exotic vegetation using small quantities of low-toxicity herbicide. Hand weeding can produce excellent results in some circumstances, depending on the weed species, though sometimes herbicides can be more appropriate (avoiding soil disturbance and enabling translocation through a whole plant from stem injection) as well as more efficient. Herbicide toxicity?
Please check your sources. Read about ‘predatory open access publishing’ in Wikipedia and refer to lists of pseudo-scientific, pseudo-peer-reviewed journals.
4. Industrial-scale agriculture, based on GMO crops, with poor regulatory oversight, driven by unscrupulous multinational companies. Truly terrible, but no-one is doing this in Byron Shire.
Weed management is complex and it will be helpful to recognise that what works for parks and gardens may not be appropriate for other situations. In addition, everyone can work together to prevent some of the weed problems, for instance by preventing the dumping of garden refuse in the bush and ensuring that invasive plants are not bought, sold and planted.
Strategies that prevent the spread of weeds, or perhaps eradicate them completely, will obviously reduce the need for herbicide in the future. We can even aspire to respectful sharing of informed opinions. At the end of the day we all want good things for our environment.
Barbara Stewart, Mullumbimby