The Program has been working closely with the private sector on the potential use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for the detection of Skeleton weed over the past three years. Significant progress has been made in this area. In 2018/19 UAVs were used to undertake surveillance searching for Skeleton weed for the first time. Although some processing and workflow issues were encountered, the overall outcome was very encouraging, with greater than 9,000ha searched. The Skeleton Weed Program will again be using UAVs to undertake (up to) 20 000ha of surveillance searching in the 2019/20 search season.
Chemical trials are also underway and are looking at further options for landholders to use in cropping programs.
Extension and awareness
The program has increased its extension effort over 2018/19. There has been a strategic and extensive extension campaign incorporating radio community service announcements, press releases and social media to coincide with the start of the summer search season (November/December 2018). This was very well received and has greatly raised the recognition and profile of Skeleton weed. We will certainly be doing this again in 2019/20.
Program staff attended all the major machinery field days and farmer events (including Mingenew, Dowerin, Newdegate and Wagin). These are important in maintaining contact with landholders and is a great way for the Skeleton weed team to talk face-to-face with landholders. This year, there were improvements to the display, interaction and engagement including distribution maps and interactive displays (including skeleton weed root tubes).
The program’s key publication, the Skeleton weed in WA: Management Guide was further reviewed and control recommendations updated, and separated into a main guide and Control Program booklet, which continue to be issued along with Landholder Information Packs to infested landholders. Promotional items continued to remain a favourite at field days and property visits which include the skeleton weed identification stickers.
A working group was also formed in early 2019 to review the Communications Plan, objectives and key messages moving forward; and committed in ensuring landholder behavioural change results.