Posts tagged Africa
We even have Fleabane and feathertop Rhodgrass grass on safari! Is there no escape?

It is always interesting, for me at least, to have a close look at the vegetation when travelling, both around Australia and overseas. Guess it is my love of nature and the environment, plus living life as a scientist .

Last month I was working in northern South Africa for two weeks, then across to Botswana for two weeks of Safari.  This was our first time doing Safari and I will have to admit it was fantastic. Botswana has tourism down to a fine art and I highly recommend it as a safe and great destination. However I digress.Area of Botswana where we "safaried".

Between observing a fantastic variety African wildlife in their natural habitat I observed some very familiar plants. Both Australia and southern Africa have been busy exchanging native species that then become weeds in their adopted home.

The first was feathertop Rhodes grass (Chloris virgata) at Nxai Pan, which is becoming a major weed in northern New South Wales and Queensland. This was a minor part of the lush vegetation which would soon dry off and be eaten down to dust by the vast numbers of grazers who traverse the landscape.  It is interesting to note that one of its many common names in southern Africa is ‘Old land grass’, and it tend s to be found on heavily croChloris virgata at Nxai Pan.pped areas.

Some of the grazers at Nxai Pan.Next was a species of fleabane out in the wilds of the Okavango Delta. The area with the fleabane was soon to go underwater with the coming annual flood.  The plants looked like either Tall fleabane or Canadian fleabane, however the University of Pretoria’s Plant Science Herbarium lists 12 species. I know enough about plant taxonomy to know when I am beaten. Going down to species should often be left to the experts, and let them argue among themselves.Fleabane waiting for the Delta flood.

Flaxleaf fleabane is also major problem in horticulture in South Africa’s Western Cape, with populations resistant to both glyphosate and paraquat. So it isn’t just us having trouble with this species.

In western NSW training African friends on water harvesting and water spreading

I am very lucky to have such a diverse job.

Last week my colleague Peter Fitzgerald from the University of New England and I were tour guide, bus driver, trainer and very much everything in-between with 15 African agriculturalists from 11 different countries. We visited Gunnedah, Dubbo, Narromine and Nyngan as a major part of our second 2013 “Irrigation and small scale water harvesting course” based at the University of New England and funded by AusAID.

Orchardist Warren Yeomans discussing how he uses tensiometers to determine when to irrigateTo date the participants have spent a week on each of the following:

  • refining extension techniquesand project planning
  • dam building with the Soil Conservation Service
  • irrigation systems with Lew Hyson and Isa Yunusa (UNE)
  • field tour of irrigation, water spreading and water ponding

The field tour is a highlight as our friends get to meet a range of Australian farmers with a range of management styles and ‘drivers’ as well as getting practical training on establishing water spreading banks and water ponding at Nyngan with Ray Thompson, Local Land Services.

Course participants marking out water-spreading banks north of NynganOur final week together is spent in revision and fine tuning their projects they will implement when they return home.  They also get to present their projects to us which helps develop their presentation skills.

A sad farewell to the gateway to the Outback