Department of Agriculture and Food staff have returned from the Cocos (Keeling) Islands where they continued highly successful work to control Siam weed.
In addition to weed control, the team helped boost the Islands’ biosecurity, encouraging the shire to recognise Siam weed (Chromolaena odorata) as a threat to newly-established agricultural enterprises on the island and the environment.
Department development officer David Atkins said the department had been involved in weed control on the Cocos Islands since 2010, conducting three to four visits each year.
“Siam weed is recognised as one of the world’s worst tropical weeds,” Mr Atkins said.
“The success of the department’s Siam weed program on the Islands has been recognised with the Commonwealth and Western Australian Governments extending the program for a further 12 months.
“Senior technical officer Brad Rayner, biosecurity officer Terri Jasper and development officer Andrew Reeves recently returned from the Islands where they advised the shire to include weed control activities in future contract operations and ensure a Siam weed free area around site works and equipment storage areas.
“This arrangement is expected to significantly reduce the risk of Siam weed being transported back to mainland Western Australia on machinery after it is used on the Islands.”
Murdoch University legume trials to assess the Cocos Islands’ potential for agriculture also benefited from weed control on the trial site, which was previously heavily infested with Siam weed.
Mr Atkins said economic benefits of the department’s weed control efforts included the promotion of local employment and training in weed control techniques.
“The removal of Siam weed also appears to have resulted in health benefits, with locals reporting a reduced incidence of asthma caused by Siam weed,” he said.
“The pollen load of Siam weed is considerable because the plant flowers several times during the year.
“A survey has been initiated to quantify health benefits resulting from Siam weed reduction and demonstrate a clear link between the weed control program and health improvements.”
Department staff also presented biosecurity information to Year 9 and 10 students as part of the school curriculum and helped raise the profile of the department within the Island community.
Funding for the department’s Siam weed control on the Cocos Islands is provided under Service Delivery Arrangement by the Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport.
Media contact: Jodie Thomson, media liaison +61 (0)8 9368 3937