Riverina bunkers down against weed invasion following dry winter season

WEED KILLER: Tony Phelps unveils the weed hygiene station in Pomingalarna Reserve. Picture: Emma Hillier
WEED KILLER: Tony Phelps unveils the weed hygiene station in Pomingalarna Reserve. Picture: Emma Hillier

The best friend of a weed is bare ground. Even when other plants struggle for a stronghold in dry times, weeds thrive. 

Stefan Zyhalac has spent the past 30 years fighting weeds from the frontline.

“There’s been an increase around, I’d say in bindi plant, khaki, and winter grass. It’s all over people’s lawns and in council parks too.

“It’s probably worse this year because it’s so dry so there’s no ground competition. When grass goes dormant, weeds take over and in some places it’s the only thing growing.”

The last time it was this bad, Mr Zyhalac says, was in 2009, just before the millennium drought broke.

To control the spread of weeds through the city and surrounds, Wagga City Council has installed its first weed hygiene station in Pomingalarna Reserve, Moorong.

“People come from all over to go to Pomi, there’s even a mountain bike comp that’s run there each year,” said Tony Phelps, council’s environmental manager.

“A lot of seeds get caught in rubber tyres and in the grooves of shoe soles, so the idea is before you leave the reserve brush off your bike and your shoes to keep from infecting other areas with any seeds on you.”

A sample of the seeds spores is collected at the station during each brush off. 

“We can have a look and research what’s coming into the city, what we haven’t seen before, or what we’re seeing too much of.”

In recent years, the creeping khaki weed has become prevalent across the Riverina, and especially so in Wagga. In neighbouring Junee, the main focus is controlling coolatai grass, boxthorn, silver leaf nightshade and St John’s wort. 

“Many plant species become weeds because they spread quickly, and since normally spring is the time we start to see them, it’s important to manage them as soon as they pop up.”

Alongside the hygiene station, council is continuing to endorse the classification of heavily weed prone areas as ‘red zones’.

“The red guide posts system works across the Riverina, and basically we ask that if you see a red weed sign, don’t enter that area if you don’t have to.

“You have the potential to spread the seeds even if you don’t think there are any on you,” said Mr Phelps.