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Putting mesquite on the map

Local Land Services Western Region is trialing an innovative new technique to map infestations of one of the most aggressive weeds in the Western Region – mesquite.

The trial is being carried out at a site north of Broken Hill and involves the capture of high resolution, geo-referenced imagery using a fixed wing drone.

This imagery will be analysed by the University of Sydney using specialist software to determine if plants can be identified.

Senior Land Services Officer, Mitchell Plumbe said it’s challenging to identify the location of weeds like mesquite in the Western Region using current methods due to the large expanses of land and the difficulty of accessing some areas.

“This results in target plants invariably escaping treatment and greatly increases treatment costs as large areas must be searched to find and treat weed plants,” Mr Plumbe said.

“The use of a drone will overcome these access and scale issues.”

If the method is successful and cost effective, landholders will be able to better target their weed control activities, which will significantly reduce the labor costs for treatment.”

This trial builds on work undertaken by the Australian Centre for Field Robotics at the University of Sydney, where algorithms were developed to identify mesquite from other vegetation and provide a map of its distribution.

“While mesquite in the Western Region has not yet reached the level of infestation seen in other areas of Australia, recent seasons have resulted in extensive germination events,” Mr Plumbe said.

“It poses a great risk to both biodiversity and production within the Western Region, having plagued local graziers and land managers for over 50 years.”

Results from this trial are expected to be received by mid-2016.

Media contact: Michelle McGranahan 0428 784 282