Pest animals and weed management survey
Authors:Nyree Stenekes and Rob Kancans
This report presents the key results from a national survey of agricultural land managers about pest and weed management on their property and local area undertaken by ABARES in 2016 and 2019. A total of 6,470 land managers participated in 2016 and a slightly larger group of 8,059 participated in a second survey conducted in 2019. The pest animal and weed management survey series are funded through the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment’s Established Pest Animals and Weeds Management Pipeline program and the previous Established Pest Animals and Weeds measure of the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper.
The survey respondents represented agricultural land managers across broadacre, horticulture, dairy and other livestock (poultry, deer, goats, horses, bee-keeping) industries, each with an estimated value of agricultural operations (EVAO) of $5,000 per year or more, across 53 of the 56 natural resource management regions in Australia.
The data were collected through a combination of hardcopy postal and online versions of the survey. In 2016, approximately 77% of responses received were via the postal survey option and this decreased to 56% in 2019 with an increasing preference for online response options among the farming population. An adjusted response rate of 52% overall was achieved across both surveys.
This report presents results on a range of topics from the surveys including:
- the level of the problem with pest animals and Weeds of National Significance (WoNS)
- impacts of pest animals and weeds
- pest animal and weed management activities on the property and in the local area
- information sources and participation in local support networks
- and changes between 2016 and 2019.
Changes in many of the results presented on pest animal and weed management between the 2016 and 2019 surveys are potentially linked to the differences in the level of agricultural activity and the practices used on farms due to climatic conditions that occurred between the two surveys. While 2016 was a relatively high rainfall year, there were severe, prolonged drought conditions across much of the country in 2019 (BoM 2016; 2019). These changes are likely to have influenced the distribution, abundance and impacts of pest animals and weeds and the levels of activity around their management.
- Problems with some pest animal species are very commonly reported, with more than 50% of agricultural land managers in Australia reporting native animals and birds, rabbits/hares, rodents (rats and mice) and foxes had caused either minor or major problems on their properties in the 12 months prior to both the 2016 and 2019 surveys.
- Feral animals are a subset of pest animals that include wild dogs, foxes, rabbits/hares, introduced pest birds, feral deer, feral pigs, feral camels, feral goats, feral horses/donkeys, feral cats and rats/mice. The proportion of agricultural land managers reporting that a major overall feral animal problem was experienced on their property had not changed significantly between surveys (21% 2016, 20% 2019).
- Nationally, there were statistically significant increases in the proportion of land managers reporting major or minor problems with native animals and birds (4.5 percentage point increase), feral deer (1.9 percentage point increase), feral pigs (1.7 percentage point increase), feral horses/donkeys (0.4 percentage point increase) on their properties between surveys.
- The largest decrease in pest problems between surveys was in the proportion of land managers reporting major or minor problems with rabbits/hares (-6.9 percentage points).
- Twenty five percent of land managers reported major weed problems on their properties in the 12 months preceding the 2016 survey. This had reduced to 12% reporting major terrestrial weed problems in the 12 months preceding the 2019 survey.
- Land managers reported insects, native animals and birds, and other invertebrate pests (e.g. parasites, slugs, nematodes, mites etc) were the main pests contributing to crop damage or a decrease in crop production in the 2019 survey. Native animals and birds also contributed to infrastructure damage (e.g. fences), decreased livestock production and weed seed introduction. Feral animals contributed to crop damage, decreases in livestock production and damage to infrastructure; while freshwater pests had impacted on water sources.
- Reports of impacts were up across all pest species groups and impact types in the 2019 survey compared to the 2016 survey. The largest increase in impact between the surveys was a 41 percentage point jump in the proportion of land managers reporting crop damage (e.g. contamination of harvest or grain) or decreased crop production (e.g. crop quality loss due to insect infestations) caused by invertebrate pests.
- Reports of weed impacts on agricultural properties were down in 2019 from 2016 across all types of impacts, probably because of reduced overall vegetation growth (including weeds) due to severe, prolonged drought conditions across much of the country in 2019 (BoM 2019). In 2016, 72% of land managers reported experiencing a decrease in the value of production on their property caused by weeds. This dropped to 49% of land managers reporting this impact in 2019.
- In 2019, 74% of land managers indicated they were actively managing a pest animal on their property in the last 12 months. This is a small but statistically significant decrease from 76% of land managers actively managing a pest in 2016.
- Shooting, ground baiting and pesticide/insecticide applications continue to be the most widely used tools for pest control in 2019 (used by 76%, 49% and 52% of land managers respectively).
- The most common delivery agents for pest control activities were the owners/operators of the property themselves (33% of respondents).
- Ground shooting was the most widely used pest animal control method (used by 76% of land managers in 2019), but only a small proportion of land managers using it considered it highly effective (20% of those using it rated it as very effective in 2019).
- Pesticides/insecticides are used by over 50% of land managers and were regarded as the most effective pest control method nationally.
- Eighty one percent of agricultural land managers indicated they were undertaking weed management activities in 2019, which was a small but statistically significant drop from 85% in 2016.
- Ninety five percent of land managers reported a positive expenditure on pest and/or weed management in 2016. This reduced to 85% of managers reporting a positive expenditure in 2019.
- Of those reporting any spend, an average of $20,405 (adjusted to reflect farm prices paid in 2019–20) was spent per agricultural business on undertaking pest animal and weed management activities in the 12 months preceding the 2016 survey and this almost halved to $11,576 per agricultural property in 2019.
- Of those reporting any effort, pest animal and weed control activities took an average of 77 person days per agricultural business by the owners/operators including family members in 2016. This had decreased to an average of 66 days in 2019.
- In both surveys, the most important action that land managers thought could improve pest animal and weed management was having new or improved control methods (or tools) (63% and 59% of land managers in 2016 and 2019 respectively rated this as important or very important).
- In 2019, 38% of land managers were very interested in using new biological control tools for pest animal or weed management on their property if they become available in the future.
Management Groups, activities and programs
- Rates of pest and weed management group membership in Australia has not changed significantly between 2016 and 2019 and was around 10% of land managers.
- Rates of participation in any pest or weed activity/program in Australia decreased between 2016 and 2019 from 36 to 31% of land managers. The decrease can be seen across participation in almost all provider’s activities/programs.
- Of those who had participated in activities run by service providers in 2019, more than 85% of land managers reported that they had used the skills/knowledge gained through those activities on their properties.
- Between 2016 and 2019, there was at least a 4 percentage point increase in the proportion of land managers relying on peers and neighbours, family and friends, local government/councils and demonstration trials or field days for pest and weed information and advice.
Read the full report
Pest and weed survey dashboard
Launch Pest and Weed Survey Dashboard.