Hudson Pear – Invasive Cactus Species

What began as a backyard plant in the late 1960s, the thorny Hudson pear cactus has spread to completely blanket 100,000 hectares of grazing land near Lightning Ridge in western New South Wales, rendering it unusable for pastoral activity and crippling the livelihoods of local farmers.
The aggressively fast-growing cactus species of Mexican origin is a critical hazard to biodiversity. With its prickly spines causing severe injuries to both humans and animals.  Likewise, projections show that if the initial infestation cannot be significantly reduced, cost to NSW could be in excess of $500 million. There is also an added fear that Hudson pear will make its way into the Murray-Darling Basin, causing major issues for the community at large throughout NSW, Victoria and South Australia.
Castlereagh Macquarie County Council Senior Bio Security Weeds Officer Andrea Fletcher, Bio Security Weeds Officer Matthew Savage and their team have been successfully using Iconyx’s Summit Biosecurity System with a Zebra XR12 from 4D Global to map weeds, monitor regrowth, and carry out scheduled follow-up treatments in the hopes to control and completely eradicate the Hudson pear.
The waxy outer of the Hudson pear means that if insufficient herbicide is applied, it does not die, just falls apart. As the small segments lie in the grass, there is then an 80% viability of each one becoming a new plant. Meticulous attention to detail is required – 100% coverage with 6cm radius from the plant, using an oil to spread the chemical over the fast-growing weed.
With numerous methods being implemented to eliminate the growth of Hudson pear, the seamless integration of the Summit Biosecurity system with the XSLATE R12 has made field mapping and recording control activities much more efficient.
National Geographic host Tyson Mayr visited the area recently to discuss elimination methods, including herbicides, control agents and physical removal. Meeting with researchers from NSW and Queensland agriculture departments who have had a breakthrough in their search for a natural predator, with the microscopic cochineal bug showing huge promise in the fight against the out-of-control cactus species.
The NSW Government (Office for Environment and Heritage) funded the construction of a biocontrol agent rearing facility at Lightning Ridge. For the next three years, this facility will be used to mass-rear the Hudson pear cochineal. It is anticipated that once the facility reaches maximum production, it will be able to produce upwards of 100,000 infected Hudson pear segments per year. Forming part of the Integrated Weed Management strategy – with the bug being released into core infestations and herbicides used to keep the spread along fence lines and outlying areas under control.
Watch the full story from National Geographic here.
To learn how Summit Biosecurity can help you in the fight against evasive species visit this page.