Council allocates $250,000 to fight plant from hell

The local war against Tropical Soda Apple, described as “the plant from hell”, has received a huge boost thanks to an army of contractors.

Kempsey Shire Council has allocated $250,000 of the $1 million of the Federal Government’s Drought Communities Programme Extension to fight the noxious weed which falls under a control order imposed on landholders across the whole of NSW.

Tropical Soda Apple is a highly invasive weed with the ability to dominate farming properties and threaten livelihoods. First identified in NSW in August 2010 in the Upper Macleay over the following years through flooding and stock eating its fruit, it proved to be an incredibly strong survivor and spreader.

2019’s drought and bushfire followed by heavy rains early in 2020 has resulted in this weed flourishing in the Upper Macleay.

Council General Manager, Craig Milburn, said this grant funding, which can only be used on crown land, will be used to assist in reducing the spread of the invasive weed in the riparian zones along the length of the river and neighbouring many private landholders.

“It is critical that local contractors be engaged to undertake direct control of Tropical Soda Apple on riverside and crown land areas to try and prevent this weed from travelling further down to other areas of this Shire and to assist farmers fighting it on their own land,” said Mr Milburn.

“Tropical Soda Apple wreaks havoc on farming properties across the Macleay Valley. This invasive species just multiplies so quickly that it takes over the land and then you can’t use the land for anything else.”

“To control it, you need to spray four times a year, or the other way farmers get rid of it is to dig it up and either deep-bury it or burn it. So the process is quite labour intensive.”

Tropical Soda Apple is an aggressive, prickly, perennial shrub 1-2 metres high. If not controlled a few plants will form a hectare sized thicket in 6 months, with each plant producing 200 fruit containing 45,000 seeds each year.

The funding for control of Tropical Soda Apple on public lands is part of a broader Council strategy to support private landowners fighting the weed.

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