Victorian Landcare Magazine - Winter 2022, Issue 84

Tackling weeds online

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Weeds Weed Management

C375 p17 hero

Above When this invasive blind cactus (Opuntia puberula) was discovered at Great Western it wasn’t clear what species of cacti it was. A Facebook post yielded several confident identifications from experienced weed practitioners and botanists within an hour.

As a fresh-faced young weed technician with the Department in 1988, I had already started accumulating my 'tools of trade'. I had a bright yellow copy of Costermans native plants, and a highly-prized shiny new copy of Auld and Medd's "Weeds. An illustrated botanical guide to the weeds of Australia".

It wasn't long before I filled a shelf, then a bookcase with these analogue wonders. I have fond memories in my Yarram rental huddled in front of the oil heater spending evenings leafing through their pages identifying the weeds I had photographed with my analogue camera. I practiced often to cement their features and GIST (general impression of size and texture) in the recognition parts of my brain. I can still remember weed names decades later even if I can't remember where I put my glasses 5 minutes ago! 

Thirty plus years and here we are in the digital era. With artificial intelligence and machine learning now helping us identify weeds and cameras that fit in our pockets, opening us to a world of knowledge from anywhere connected to a communications tower. 

In last winter's issue we reflected on a weed's history influencing their future and how last century we communicated about weeds with technology like fax machines! Technology has come a long way and is improving all the time. 

I reflect often on a handout from 'extension' training I did years ago including this quote that resonated with me, "Successful workers consider client needs and recommend appropriate technology rather than the most sophisticated technology" (P.D Mortiss in "Agricultural extension: a practical manual", DPI, Qld). 


Identifying environmental weeds in the field using iNaturalist.

Above: Identifying environmental weeds in the field using iNaturalist.

The funny thing about technology nowadays is that the interface with the user is increasingly simple while the behind-the-scenes technology can be incredibly complicated. While some of us might need our five-year old grandchildren to program out televisions, it is pretty straight forward to access and use applications (apps) on our mobile devices. App development is a rapidly growing area so look for more than are listed here.

Below are a variety of online tools that can be used to publicise, plan, communicate and report on weed projects. They are also for learning about weeds, an integral part of any planning process, and opportunities to share your information to help others.

Whether you use a desktop computer, tablet or mobile device you will find some useful tools in the links below. My professional focus is on environmental rather than agricultural weeds, however, many of the links are relevant to both. Apps can assist with field data collection, mapping and identification. Try searching the app store using 'invasive species' and 'weeds' and note some apps have a fee to download.

Point and click plant identification (ID):

  • Seek by iNaturalist App
  • PlantSnap App
  • COMING SOON in 2023! Weed ID App and WeedScan - If you have used FeralScan for invasive animals, then you will appreciate WeedScan with an integrated weed identification app when it becomes available. Coordinated by the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions (CISS), a number of states and territories are collaborating to create this tool that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to identify weeds. The advantage of this app over other plant identification apps is that it's integrated into State/Territory weed information platforms and connects users to the right person, relevant jurisdiction and right information including the Weeds Australia website. Funded by the Commonwealth of Australia through the National Landcare Program's Smart Farming Partnerships and other co-contributors.
  • To communicate with a real botanist, try the National Herbarium of Victoria identification and information services (fees may apply). Herbarium specimens and records are viewable through Australia’s Virtual Herbarium (AVH) and Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) otherwise by appointment with the Herbarium

Social media

Social media is a great place to explore and share weed information. There are many people and groups on various platforms. When our weed team is out in the field needing help to ID a weed, a post to Facebook or Twitter can result in an expert ID within an hour.

Tip: Try search terms and hashtags such as #InvasiveSpecies #EarlyInvaderWeeds #InvasivePlants #weeds (be prepared for drug related material) #WeedID #PlantID.



General links to weed information, images and often management details:

 Weeds in Victoria:

Early invader environmental weeds in Victoria (or web search for ‘early invader weeds’):

Other useful sites and apps:

Practical weed treatment techniques:

Weed management after fire:

Looking to the future:

  • Weed Futures - decision-support tool to interrogate profiles for over 500 species within Australia and assess weed threats for regions of interest under current and predicted future climates
  • Biosecurity Commons - ground-breaking project that will deliver a cloud-based decision-support platform for modelling and analysing biosecurity risk and response Home | Biosecurity Commons
  • General Surveillance Community of Practice (COP) is a community of surveillance stakeholders and practitioners focused on building capacity and capability in general surveillance to support an effective biosecurity system Microsoft Forms
  • In development for 2023 - Future-proofing Australia’s Post-Border Weed Risk Management System to improve rapid response to weeds after fire and drought. This is a multi-state collaboration to develop a national, web-based, weed risk assessment that incorporates post-disturbance factors (post-fire, drought and flood). The aim is to develop an improved weed risk assessment tool alongside a website to host the tool and online self-guided modules to increase the adoption of these tools across community, industry and government land managers. Funded, in collaboration with NSW, Victoria, ACT and SA, by the Commonwealth Government Established Pest Animals and Weeds Management Pipeline Program - Enhancing national pest animal and weed management skills and capacity: adoption, coordination and extension initiative.

Opuntioid Cacti information:

Grass information:

Biodiversity management tools:

Analogue gems:

For those still more comfortable with a hard-copy book, here are a few options:

  • Weeds of the south-east: an identification guide for Australia (3rd edn), by F. J. Richardson, R. G. Richardson & R. C. H. Shepherd 2016.
  • Bush invaders of South-East Australia: a guide to the identification and control of environmental weeds found in South-East Australia, by Adam Muyt 2001.
  • Environmental weeds: a field guide for SE Australia, by Kate Blood 2001.

Other specialist guides:

  • Waterplants in Australia. A field guide (4th edn), by Sainty, G. R. and Jacobs, S. W. L. 2003.
  • Alps invaders. Weeds of the Australian high country (2nd edn), by Hosking, J., Sainty, G. and Jacobs, S. 2006.
  • Spotting soil salinity: A Victorian field guide to salt indicator plants, by Matters, J. and Bozon, J. 1995.

Tips when doing web searches:

A heads-up that when using 'weeds' and 'internet' in the same sentence. A new world of unexpected and perhaps unwanted web content can appear before your eyes!

  • Include 'invasive' in search terms
  • Look for reputable links like government agencies, authorities, universities, Landcare groups etc
  • Links can change or disappear so download essential information for further reference (although always revisit current online information about chemical use and legislation)
  • Mobile connectivity - download maps before going out of range, some apps automatically send data when they connect to a network

Kate Blood is Program Manager – Weed Management at DELWP.

This article was written with assistance from Kate’s colleagues Bianca Gold and Bec James.

For more information call the DELWP Customer Service Centre on 136 186 and follow Kate on social media @weedyk8