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Integrated approach a must for browser control

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Delegates visit a pine plantation at Mt Arthur to examine the effectiveness of various browsing control strategies. [Image: Kate Gill, DPIPWE]

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­DPIPWE hosted a three-day (20-22nd April) workshop presenting the key outcomes from the TCFA-funded Alternatives to 1080 Program. Tim Wardlaw (Forestry Tasmania) attended days two and three of the workshop wearing two hats – one for Forestry Tasmania and the other for the CRC. For the first two days of the workshop, a mix of field inspections in the morning followed by seminar presentations of sector-specific operational results in the afternoon were held for the agricultural and forestry sectors, respectively. The forestry presentations on day two summarised the current practices used by forestry companies to manage browsing. For eucalypt plantations the general theme was of an integrated approach that combined seedling "stockings" (see related articles in Biobuzz 8 and Biobuzz 9), which are deployed in high risk areas typically around the plantation perimeter, with culling by shooting and trapping.

Current costs of management are very high, and at the extreme may represent 50% of the total establishment costs. Costs are largely driven by the intensity and duration of culling with the cost of stockings relatively modest ($150/1000 seedlings) and likely to become a fraction of this with technological innovation in the development of an automatic applicator. The workshop was told that currently stockings are generally used as an extra layer of protection (insurance value) with little moderation in cull intensity during the immediate post-plant period when stockings offer the greatest protection. However, there were sufficient data to show that with a low intensity of culling, plantations that received stockings had fewer over-threshold damage events than plantations without stockings. The tenor of the discussion provided a springboard for Tim Wardlaw to outline the CRC’s proposal for demonstration of integrated browsing management. This proposal will draw on the research results of Alison Miller, which showed that the combination of repellents and stockings provided additive protection (see related articles in Biobuzz 8 and Biobuzz 9), coupled with the research from Julianne O'Reilly-Wapstra's group which has developed a practical method for screening seedlots to identify those with high leaf sideroxylonal levels. One plan being explored is to combine seedling stockings / repellents, and seedlots with increased sideroxylonal levels to deploy in high risk parts of the plantation. This deployment strategy could be integrated with operational monitoring / culling practices used by industry to test the extent to which we can capture the benefits of the non-lethal methods through reduced culling intensity and still achieve adequate protection.

The final day was of presentations providing a wider perspective of the results from the Alternatives to 1080 program with some excellent presentations synthesising our updated understanding of browsing management by John Dawson and Mick and Helen Statham. While these presentations came primarily from the agricultural perspective, they again reinforced the theme across both sectors that the most effective management will use a combination of tactics, each being done well. Importantly, the need for monitoring damage was highlighted as the only way of knowing just how well the management has worked.  The workshop gave stakeholders and the research community the opportunity to thank John Dawson for the enthusiasm and effectiveness in which he managed the Alternatives to 1080 program.

Biobuzz issue eleven, May 2010