Query over whether prickly acacia harvesters will treat regrowth

Sally Gall
By Sally Gall
April 20 2022 - 3:00am
Desert Channels Queensland operations manager Simon Wiggins speaking at the field day held under cover in a paddock at Nuken, north west of Winton. Pictures: Sally Gall

As commercial prickly acacia harvesting operations gather momentum, one western Queensland natural resource management group has queried whether enough attention is being paid to regrowth possibilities.

Speaking at a field day at Nuken north west of Winton last week, Desert Channels Queeensland's operations manager Simon Wiggins said he was aware of five harvesting proposals in various stages of maturity, ranging from very immature to quite advanced stages.

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"It's certainly one way to accelerate the control of mature prickly acacia and if it can be used as a byproduct and an aid in industry development and regional development, then I certainly think it's something we should be looking at," he said.

However, being a primary coloniser species, Mr Wiggins said it was a declared weed for a very good reason.

"When the mature tree is harvested, it provides an opportunity for the seed in the soil to germinate and if it's not controlled properly at that initial stage, then the problem can be far worse than it started with," he said.

"It's not just as simple as, we'll go and cut down the mature trees."

At one of DCQ's monitoring sites north of Winton, stem counts went from 350/ha to zero with stick raking, but within two years that had blown out to 500 stems/ha as juvenile plants took advantage of the ideal conditions.

Mr Wiggins said the project proponents they had spoken with so far had factored those concerns in to their planning.

"Whether they've actually got an economical solution, that's a different issue at this stage," he said.

"They will be able to harvest quite quickly and they will be having to make sure the treatment of that area occurs at the same pace."

A fenced-off prickle bush infestation at Winton treated with tebuthiron pellets, which has a residual effect on seedlings trying to germinate.

While landholders may be seeing the prickly acacia on their property as a commercial opportunity to make money, Mr Wiggins said it was his understanding at the current stage of the policy debate that a declared weed couldn't be commercialised.

"Landholders need to think how these companies are going to harvest it, when they're going to harvest it, and transport, if there's any seed pods on the trees," Mr Wiggins added.

"We certainly don't want to see those seed pods being trucked down the road."

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Sally Gall

Sally Gall

Senior journalist - Queensland Country Life/North Queensland Register

Based at Blackall, CW Qld, where I've raised a family, run Merino sheep and beef cattle, and helped develop a region - its history, tourism, education and communications.

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