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Reducing the Sting of Cactus

Large infestations of wheel cactus (Opuntia robusta) are being brought under control by Natural Resources South Australian Murray-Darling Basin (SAMDB) and local landholders.

Areas affected include the Swan Reach Nildottie region, the Bremer and Angas Rivers, Devon Downs, Sedan and all the way through to Mannum.

The release of cochineal, a biological control for Prickly Pear has been key in helping bring the pest under control.

Natural Resources SAMDB District Manager Sarah Lance said the Opuntia species, such as prickly pear and wheel cactus are very hard to control and have negative impacts on both our environment and farm production for ongoing periods.

“Originally planted as garden ornamentals or hedges, many species of cactus have escaped or been left to spread around old homesteads.

“They have become a serious declared weeds under The Natural Resources Management Act 2004,” she said.

“With support from their local District Officers, Adrian Growden and Joel Horn, landholders are able to curtail the spread of cactus and reduce the impacts on their properties.

“This could be through biological control, chemical or physical control – your local District Officer will help you find the right control method for your situation.” she said.

Natural Resources SAMDB District Officer Joel Horn, has been working to spread the biological control agent cochineal along the Bremer and Angas waterways.

“This year has been a fantastic year for the growth of cochineal, the white fluffy spots you often see on cactus species.

“I have been collecting it, keeping it growing in nice warm conditions, often under my tarp in my ute, and then working with landholders to attach infected pads to a sheltered place on a healthy cactus.

“Biological control may not bring instant results like chemical control, but it does mean that we can rely on nature to spread it into areas we can’t reach, such as these creek lines,” he said.

For more information on controlling cactus, contact your local Natural Resources office or the Natural Resources Centre Murray Bridge on 8532 9100.