Lantana Management – Minimum Disturbance Technique

Lantana workshop We had fifteen locals here on the farm yesterday who, despite raging wind and rain came to see how we are managing lantana infestation on our land.

It is a very tricky situation for me as I am cornered into using methods that I would otherwise never ever want to choose. So read on please (and don’t judge me please! 🙂 )

Using herbicide isn’t my favourite tool in eradicating lantana and I await with great anticipation the day we find an ecologically friendly solution. I do go into panic when I have to use glyphosate on lantana. It is grossly against my ethics and permaculture principles. Please go tinker with alternative options – I tried soap, salt and vinegar, oh and bicarb soda too without much luck. I follow the principles defined by the Bradley sisters in their Minimum Disturbance Technique for weed management.

I often prefer using the cut & paint method – I apply straight glyphosate with a brush on the cut no more than 20 seconds after cutting the plant close to ground level. Add some colorant so you know where you’ve painted.

When I have to spray, I often prefer using the splatter gun technique as I get close to none off-target damage. It also uses very little quantity of glypho:water mix and it is very efficient in sensitive areas (areas where mechanical removal by extraction of stumps could cause landslides, erosion, creek silting, and other land disturbance causing more weeds to emerge).

Pump_SprayerI trained with a $12 pressure spray bottle filled with water and food dye for some time before feeling confident in my application method. Always please follow best practice methods of OHS principles and landscape observation prior to spraying.

Before

Before: Lantana on creek banks.

 

After: native tree ferns can emerge freely now that the blanketing lantana is removed

After: native tree ferns can emerge freely now that the blanketing lantana is removed

So if spraying isn’t the solution (say it might be too close to a wetland, a creek or a water hole), we are left with mechanical removal, either by hand, with a wire strainer or a winch or the tried and tested mattock or back-hoe. This method works brilliantly although it does leave a ‘scar’ or a rip mark on the land that needs to be healed quickly or else more weeds come and fill the gap. I do not ever use it on steep slope or too close to the river edge. Bank erosion or landslides have a wider and longer lasting detrimental effect on the landscape than the cut & paint method.

I know from experience that goats have done quite well on a mixed diet of grasses, native shrubs and seedlings (hum! ecologically disastrous) and lantana (so long as it is at the ‘green tip’ stage). Goats will have the odd nibble of the more woody parts of the plant here and then but they won’t graze it to the ground. Fenc

Lantana removal on steep gully

Lantana removal on steep gully

ing needs to be goat-proof or their destructive habit at eating almost everything will prove disastrous on the ecosystem (or your rose patch).

So this option needs to be used as a primary weeding, the secondary weeding being mattock or the cut & paint method. Replanting natives or nursing those that sprout out of the ground now that the lantana blanket is gone greatly help with the maintenance program.

Planting natives to restore habitat and seed bank + peg where natives are sprouting off the ground.

Planting natives to restore habitat and seed bank + peg where natives are sprouting off the ground.

Planting natives in the gap left by the removal of lantana is used with great success here, and in conjunction with the above methods. Natives that are well adapted to the locality (in my case, lomandra, bottlebrush, sandpaper fig, native hibiscus, cheese tree, eucalypts, swamp banksia, grevilleas and other rainforest or riparian species) will not only have a better survival chance, they will also help repopulate the seed bank held above and underground hence giving its species a better change to outcompete with lantana seeds or other weeds.  The CEN Wild plant Community Nursery has all the local natives to suit your area.

Lantana rust will weaken the plant but won’t kill it outright. So again, it needs to be used in conjunction with other methods. There is quite a lot of literature on lantana rust and I suggest you discuss this topic with your local  Weeds and Pest Officer at your local council.

Whichever method you choose for your primary weeding, it needs to be followed up by monitoring and a secondary weeding. I carry mine out within three months after initial weeding, then again nine months later. Then I let the ecosystem balance itself out for one year (if I notice a particularly strong regrowth I will go back to splatter gun or mechanically remove it). Then I go back over in two years time and carry out a maintenance weeding. So far, on our creek and in the back gully, this schedule of work is working for us – it is efficient in resources, including our time.

That’s all for me now.

Good luck for your own battle with such a beautifully resilient and adaptable plant and please share your success stories with us (especially if you find a ‘green’ method!).

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