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Victrack supporting community led gorse action

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In 2011, in my then role as a gorse project officer for the St Helens Landcare Group, I was contacted by a farmer who wanted to get some action on gorse adjoining his land at Koroit. The land in question was a 37m wide strip of former railway line. If I had known what a window into my future employment and project works this meeting would have – I might have taken more photos. But as it was then, I went through the process of confirming who the landholder was (Victrack) and seeking a control on the gorse that was at that time over 9 feet tall and infesting over 10 ha of crown land set aside for railway purposes back in 1890.

Gorse has a long history in the district of Koroit. An almost equal measure of gorse was present on the private land to the west of the railway land. Arguing about who was responsible for infesting what would have been pointless. The issue was how to control what was there and work a plan to keep it controlled over time.

Looking back at the photos I did take (especially one where the farmer demonstrates to senior Victrack staff who visited the site in 2013 how he used the prevailing wind to drift his spray across the top of the railway gorse to keep it off the fence line) I see a moment in time when people from many parts of the issue came together and agreed to resolve a problem that requires a long term effort. Since 2011 Victrack have paid for ongoing control of the gorse on their land at Koroit. As an organisation they have also made it very easy for people unsure about where Victrack managed land is to identify it by using the free Google Earth layer available following the link below the article.

But more importantly, the gorse site and a further 30km of former railway line running north between Koroit and Minhamite has become a significant biodiversity project of my employer since 2012 The Basalt to Bay Landcare Network. This project called “The Green Line” represents a milestone in many ways. First it established a connection between problem solving and Landcare in Moyne Shire with Victrack. That effort then resulted in The Green Line becoming one of Victracks’ foremost investments in biodiversity protection under their sponsorship of Landcare.

While Lot 36 Koroit will never be free of gorse, it does now have a chance of becoming what many thought it would never be – an integral part of restoring degraded land so other can learn how to do that using Landcare methods.

My thanks to Victrack for being involved and staying involved.

Rail land in geographic data form. This downloadable KMZ file is a snapshot of VicTrack’s land holdings in geographic data format viewable in Google Earth. To use it, please install Google Earth first, then download our KMZ file, unzip it and then install. The data shows only the rail corridor boundaries and does not show any lease boundaries, title references, buildings and platforms, third party utilities, tracks or bridges. It is a correct record as at July 2015. Please contact VicTrack directly to clarify any issues related to land use within the rail corridor.

Lisette Mill, Facilitator for The Basalt to Bay Landcare Network, SW Victoria.

Using herbicide for control of gorse

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There are many options available to attack gorse but what method you choose will depend on some of the following circumstances;

  • Machinery availability i.e. mulching equipment, spray unit, knapsack
  • Own expertise and labour available
  • Access to the treatment area i.e. terrain
  • Amount of money you have available to allocate to the job
  • Amount of area to be treated

The above photo shows the effectiveness of herbicide used on a large infestation of gorse that was sprayed in December 2016 by a contractor. The size of the plants were generally between 0.6 to 1.5 meters tall. Overall excellent results with 99% kill rate of gorse.

I have had experience in using both spraying and mulching control methods. I have found that generally there is only need to spray new seedlings  annually after the larger infestations are reduced or removed from the property. When undertaking gorse spraying I usually contact my local Landcare Group and borrow their high volume spray unit.

To get an effective kill of gorse you need to follow the directions for use of the chemical as detailed by the manufacturer, paying particular attention to rain events and the volume of the mix i.e. chemical to water ratio.

I have always mixed a red dye into the spray unit as you can readily see what you have sprayed. In areas where there are many gorse seedlings you can easily miss treating a few. If you miss it this year it will be most likely be twice as big next year and you will need to use more chemical.

The below photo shows gorse that has not had a 100% kill rate and one contributing factor may be that spray coverage over the gorse plants was not thorough enough. Herbicide manufacturer’s instructions for woody weeds are to provide: ’Thorough coverage of foliage to the point of run-off is essential, however avoid excess spraying which is wasteful of chemical’.

Brian Rowe – VGT committee member

Mulching as the first step in controlling gorse

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One of the dilemmas one faces when confronted with a head high impenetrable wall of gorse is …where do I start? As demonstrated at the field day conducted by the Tylden Landcare group the use of the eco blade technology in which the gorse is mulched and the trunks painted with herbicide is one way to start.

The accompanying photos show a roadside at Glenlyon where the Hepburn Shire has undertaken mulching with swinging head mulcher attached to a tractor to reduce dense gorse to a manageable level and a paddock on private property where an impenetrable wall of gorse has been returned to a lawn by initial mulching with heavy equipment followed by regular follow up with a ride on mulcher.

In both instances the stumps of gorse and the seedbank are still in the ground the areas will require  follow up treatment generally involving the use of herbicide on the freshly germinated plants or combined with the mulching to have a long term impact.

The National Best Practice Manual for Gorse published by the Australian Government in partnership the Tasmanian Government provides examples of the various options to return gorse infested land to production and emphasizes the importance of conducting follow up for at least two years before revegetating the land with grasses or shrubs.

John Cable – VGT committee member