The risk of weed invasion and the impact on farms and the environment dramatically increases after fire. Fires result in increased resource availability, which favours weed species and can lead to burned areas becoming heavily infested if quick management action is not taken.
What are the risks?
Fires create a window of opportunity for competitive weed species to take advantage of the bare ground exposed and the increased resources available.
Equipment, machinery and people involved in fire response and recovery may inadvertently spread weed propagules (seeds, stems and bulbs).
Weed propagules may also be imported in fodder, carried by replacement or agisted stock and spread via materials used in rehabilitation programs. They can also be easily spread by water flow across bare ground following rainfall.
For further information about bushfire impact on weeds visit the Agriculture Victoria website.
Who should be concerned about weed spread?
Everyone should be aware and take steps to minimise the increase in weed spread. This includes:
- public land managers, council staff
- advisors/ consultants/ planners / groups and individuals coordinating works in affected areas
- contractors (including demolition, clearing, fencing, building, road and infrastructure building) and their staff
- livestock sellers, purchasers, carriers and sales agents
- hay, silage, and grain donors, merchants and hauliers
- soil and quarry material merchants and hauliers
- workers and volunteers helping with clean-up, fencing, clearing and replanting.
Remember, it is an offence to transport anything containing viable material of a declared weed
such as ragwort, Paterson's curse or serrated tussock.
Checklist for minimising weed risk after fire
- Ensure all vehicles and equipment of agencies, contractors and advisers are clean and weed free before and after going onto a property affected by fire. Wash down guidelines are available from the DPIPWE web page Weed Hygiene.
- Install signage at your front gate so visitors are aware of potential weed hygiene issues.
- At the fire site consider if your vehicle needs to come onto the property, or could you leave it on the road?
- Vehicle and equipment cleaning should occur in a designated area to contain outbreaks.
- Buy certified weed-free fodder and seed. Keep records of where materials are purchased.
- Where possible, source locally grown feed to reduce the chance of introducing new weeds that are not already present and known in your locality.
- Feed out fodder in a confined area (stock containment areas), away from drainage lines to reduce the likelihood of weeds being spread.
- Monitor the feed areas regularly and be suspicious of unfamiliar plants.
- Quarantine new livestock in a single location for 14 days to allow time for viable seed to pass through the animal.
- Check for weed seeds in fleece/ tails and continue to check for weeds in areas with new stock.
- Where possible, purchase shorn sheep.
- When moving stock along roadsides try to avoid travel through known weed infestations.
- Monitor stock routes and road sides for up to 12 months after fire to detect new weeds.
- Seed, mulch, soil and rock to be used for rehabilitation programs should be free of weed seed and propagules.
- Increase integrated weed control treatments - the first two years are critical.
- Be vigilant for new weed outbreaks and identify unfamiliar plants as soon as possible.
Revegetation and restoration
Revegetation will help to reduce weed risk. Revegetation work must go hand-in-hand with treatment. Restoration of disturbed landscapes with desired plant communities will better safeguard long term landscape resilience and help prevent the establishment of weeds.
Weed management planning
It is important to develop a weed management plan for the burned and adjacent areas as soon as possible. The overall goal is to enhance the re-establishment of desirable plants and healthy plant communities and reduce the opportunities for weeds to establish.
Benefits of an effective weed management plan:
- Prevent weed establishment
- Mitigate the re-establishment of declared weeds
- Establish and maintain healthy plant communities
Contact Invasive Species Branch for help in developing a weed management plan, (see below).
Bushfire Recovery Advice (Agriculture Victoria)
Bushfires on Farming Properties (DPIPWE)
Bushfire Information (DPIPWE)