Community group works to control cactus pest

DETERMINED: The Tarrangower Cactus Control Group at its first community field day for the year on Sunday near Maldon. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

DETERMINED: The Tarrangower Cactus Control Group at its first community field day for the year on Sunday near Maldon. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Related coverage: Cactus warrior is on a mission

A TEAM of 54 people attacked cacti on a property near Maldon this week.

The Tarrangower Cactus Control Group is working to get the dreaded wheel cactus under control in the Maldon area.

The pest is classified as a weed of national significance and infests an estimated 10,000 hectares across the Maldon, Baringhup, Nuggetty and Sandy Creek districts, including the Maldon Historic Reserve.

It renders land useless for sheep and cattle farmers because of its sharp spines.

Tarrangower Cactus Control Group president Ian Grenda said the first community field day for this year's season went well on Sunday.

"We had more people than we’ve ever had before. We’re very pleased, we all had a good time," Mr Grenda said.

"We meet once a month and it's not too much hard work," he said.

"It’s  a local problem, it travels really fast but not so far. If we can keep working on it we can get rid of it."

The group's members are active residents who are pleased to help out their neighbours.

"We go to properties that need a hand," Mr Grenda said.

"Part of it is teaching newcomers to the area how to kill them and giving them a hand. It helps the whole community," he said.

"We have been going for nine years and we continue to grow."

Mr Grenda, who lives at  Nuggetty, said paddocks infested with the pest were useless for running livestock.

"Sheep and cattle can’t go through it," he said.

"Could you imagine a shearer trying to shear a sheep with these spines in it? It takes over the land."

Mr Grenda said the cactus was difficult to kill.

"Even if you dig it out and leave it lying on the ground, it will grow back," he said.

"It is time consuming and a bit of work to get rid of it. But we’re controlling it and pushing it back."

Control group members inject the plants with glyphosate. Mr Grenda said there was no withholding period after using the chemical.

He said Parks Victoria was strong supporter of the group and that student groups also got involved.

Federal Member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters officially launched the cactus control season on Sunday.

Tarrangower Cactus Control Group's field days are on the last Sunday of every month. There is more information at www.cactuswarriors.org  

The wheel cactus, Opuntia robusta, is native to Mexico.

It is widespread in western and central Victoria, western New South Wales and south-eastern and eastern South Australia. 

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