By Kay Bailey, National Bellyache Bush Coordinator
At this time of the year any decent rain in Northern Australia will have resulted in a flush of growth of bellyache bush, a Weed of National Significance. Large areas of river flats and riparian areas will be taking on a purple-red or green hue depending on the type of bellyache bush that occurs in the area.
Within two months each plant can produce hundreds of seed which will remain viable in the soil for up to a decade in dry conditions. To prevent banking the seed and many years of subsequent control work, it is time to treat the bellyache bush in order to retain what is often your most productive pastures and access to your rivers.
Trials have shown that the best way to beat bellyache bush is to maintain good ground cover. This competitive environment will slow down the growth of each bellyache bush plant, increase the length of time before it flowers and sets seed and reduce the number of seeds produced.
Once established, there are many ways to effectively control this weed. These range from manually hand pulling for small areas to spraying and use of mechanical methods such as slashing and mulching for larger infestations. Fire is also an effective tool against bellyache bush provided there is enough fuel. You can find details of all these control methods in the Bellyache bush (Jatropha gossypiifolia) management manual.
Follow-up control is vital as dense seedling germination will occur soon after treatment. It is important that you only treat the area that you can continue managing.
Preventing the spread of bellyache bush is the most effective way to protect your pastures. Maintain good ground cover and remove isolated plants before they get the chance to set seed.
For further information contact your local weeds or beef extension officer or the National Bellyache Bush Coordinator, on 0427 186 153 or email@example.com.
Download a copy of the ‘Time to Treat’ poster.
Photos (© Kay Bailey):
Vigorous bellyache bush takes over pasture adjacent to the Roper River
Foliar spray using Brushoff or Starane