Grower attitudes and practices toward area-wide management of cropping weeds in Australia
Land Use Policy
Context: The mobility of weeds, use of biological controls and spread of herbicide resistance mean that weed management is a landscape-scale problem. Area-wide management (AWM) presents one approach for land managers, industry and government representatives to collaborate to manage weeds across public and private properties. Such an approach has been successfully used for other landscape-scale problems, such as managing animal and insect pests. Objective: This study aims to identify what individual, community and institutional factors are associated with growers’ participation in collaborative weed management in three cropping regions of Australia. Methods: Survey responses from 604 cropping growers from the Riverina (n = 218), Sunraysia (n = 200), and Darling Downs (n = 186) regions of eastern Australia were recorded between July and September 2021. Questions were designed to collect information on: socio-economic characteristics; the nature of farming operations; weed management concerns and beliefs; and individual and collaborative weed management practices, which constitute area-wide weed management (AWWM). Fisher's Exact test was applied to assess differences between growers who do and do not work together with others to manage weeds. P < 0.05 was considered statistically significant. The Boruta random forest function was used for feature selection and a random forest regression including the selected variables was then applied to determine the accuracy of the model that explains whether land managers collaborate with others on weed management. Results and Conclusion: Almost all (95%) growers agreed that each land manager has a responsibility to the whole region to control weeds and 84% agreed that effective control of weeds requires land managers to work together. Yet only 24% of growers currently work with other land managers on weed management. Growers who are less likely to work with others to manage weeds are those who: are less concerned about herbicide resistant weeds spreading to neighbouring land; are unlikely to share information with other land managers about weeds; or who are unlikely to attend meetings about local weed issues. Supporting greater uptake of AWM of weeds in the future will require increased awareness and education about the spread of herbicide resistance, building of new networks among growers and other key stakeholders, and development of AWWM activities that are accessible to all land managers regardless of time and financial constraints. Significance: This research demonstrates for the first time the limited extent of AWM of cropping weeds among growers in eastern Australia, and that AWWM is hindered by knowledge, network and access constraints.
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Australian Research Council