Lead Researchers: Dr Jack Desbiolles, Dr Jim O'Hehir

The Project

The productivity, viability and economic return of Australian forest plantations is underpinned by silvicultural systems able to achieve cost-effective weed control during the tree crop establishment phase. While Australian forest managers continue to rely mainly on agricultural chemicals to control weeds, there is growing uncertainty over the social license to maintain such practice in the medium and longer term which threatens the productivity of timber production. The objective of this project was to review weed management practices in Australian plantation forestry and identify opportunities for more effective and reduced use of chemicals, as well as adoption of non-chemical alternatives.

Industry Partners

UniSA, worked with industry partners Forico, GTFP, HQP, HVP, Midway, PFO, SFM, Timberlands, FC NSW, FPM Research Consortium, USC

Our Research Approach

Key issues were identified in an initial project workshop with the industry partners and contractors. The reports are based on merging of information from field visits, industry consultation, seminars, literature search and discussion information to identify current weed control methods, drivers of poor survival and growth and certification issues. A key component of the project methodology was to integrate agricultural expertise, drawing insights from best practice weed management and machinery innovations in agricultural contexts.

weed control summary

A summary of the drivers of a weed control regime documented by this study.

Key Findings

Despite prolonged and concerted efforts, no cost-effective replacement of glyphosate-formulations is expected in the foreseeable future

  • Improve effectiveness and reduce use of current cheistries to improve social license
  • Actively consider innovation: integration of non-chemical weed control alternatives

While aspects of best practices are known, significant barriers prevent implementation

  • Improve knowledge of weed spectrums at each site and weed biology
  • Address labour shortage and OHS issues

Opportunities exist for more impactful contractor collaboration

  • Actively engage with contractors in the continuous improvement of the production system

Forestry sites are 'harder' to mechanise than agricultural sites, limiting weed management options and increasing complexity and costs

  • Improve site conditions under a more holistic approach
  • Optimise slash management to open new treatment options

Holistic management is essential to optiimise silvicultural systems

  • Develop synergies via holistic and adaptive strategies

What is the Future of R&D in Weed Management

The speed of technology development is rapid hence there is a need to continually interpret and evaluate developments.

Spraying drones:

  • Cost-effectiveness in various weed management contexts
  • Potential as integrated detection and delivery platforms


  • Partnerships fostering innovation
  • Motivation for continuous improvement


  • High resolution images at high frequency weed monitoring

Silvicultural systems

  • Minimise costs and risks via integrated systems
  • Site improvements to increase operational choices
  • Optimum physiological timing of weed management interventions
  • Effective control of weed seed setting
  • Site specific weed control treatments


  • Improved efficacy of current chemical treatments
  • Opportunities for non-chemical treatments
  • Adaptation from agricultural best-practice

Weed control technologies