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Bracken Fern Control - Should I/Shouldnt I - What do I do??

Posted: Sat Dec 20, 2008 12:17 pm
by gavinfialkowski
First part of my question is - Is Bracken Fern a weed? It would appear so given that it makes stock quite sick (although the aboriginals used to eat it??)

The thing that concerns me is that the literature seems to say it will take over pasture unless controlled as it will out compete the grasses. So should Bracken Fern be treated any different to other weeds like thistle?

If so, what should I do because we have some thick patches of it in places (steep hilly country surrounded by karri/marri/jarrah forests)?

Any advice would be much appreciated.

Posted: Fri Jan 02, 2009 10:33 pm
by duane

Bracken is one of the oldest and most successful members of the fern family. It can be used to make glue, soap, fertilizer and mulch

Posted: Sat Jan 03, 2009 10:31 am
by Peter Andrews

What you need to keep in mind here is that there is a progression in natural landscapes to build FERTILITY.

Grass was the last plant to colonise soils....the fertility had to be built up from scratch by other plants in succession.

What you have here is a soil lacking fertility, so GRASS will not grow there naturally. The Bracken on the other hand, will grow, because it is one of the plants in succession that is TRYING to rebuild the soils natural fertility.

My suggestion is to recognise these points and simply do as Nature intended...recycle by slashing and mulching. Whilst your soil ferility is low the bracken and other plants will always outcompete the grass...when your soil fertility is restored the grass will out compete the bracken fern because the soil conditions will have changed.

Hope this helps.

Posted: Thu Jan 08, 2009 9:12 pm
by gavinfialkowski
Thanks very much for your reply. I guess I just wanted confirmation that bracken fern doesnt really need special treatment.

You'll be happy to know weve been letting the grass (and weeds) just grow and mulch up over the past two years. Im now not so paranoid about weeds having read your two books, so thats one less job we are worrying about.

Posted: Fri Jan 09, 2009 2:29 pm
by duane
And think of the $$$ you will save as well as the environment.... and your are still being productive by growing something you can recycle, which will add OM and fertility to the soil.

Its a win win win.

Posted: Sat Jan 17, 2009 9:16 am
by marni
All this info is great, except that Bracken Fern is only toxic to cattle when it has just been slashed and the new shoots are growing. This is why cattle farmers suggest not slashing the fern, as this is when the cattle seem to be most affected by the toxin in the new leaves that are forming. We have slashed this Fern dozens of times, but each time we do, it seems to multiply.

Posted: Sat Jan 17, 2009 9:48 am
by duane

You need to first recognise what the bracken fern is telling you:
1. you soil where the bracken fern is growing is LOW in fertility: yours and all the neighbouring farms that have the bracken have probably been heavily overgrazed in the past and the land flogged of its fertility

2. the bracken fern is TOXIC to stock because it is one of the plants trying to recover and rebuild your fertility, NATURALLY. IF animals try and eat it whilst it is trying to do its job, it cannot succeed. That's why Nature made it toxic so that animals wont eat it. You may have to supplementary feed till the problem is fixed.

3. you need to raise the fertility with organic matter, manure anything.

4. you need to keep stock out until the recovery process has had time to restore fertility and you have increased the biodiversity.

OR you can continue to wont fix the fertility problem but you will remove the plants that can.

Posted: Sat Jan 17, 2009 9:59 am
by marni
Thanks Duane, I will definately try your approach to the Bracken Fern problem, although i am sure it will be a long process. Our property is very hilly, esp where the Bracken Fern is growing, and in some places we are unable to slash due to the steepness, and almost impossible to apply mulch to the very steep places, but we will slash and try to mulch wherever we can. We have adopted Peters theories in most parts of our property with great results so far, so i am sure the theory in this will prove itself on Bracken Fern. The area in question has been repeatedly burnt ( NOT BY US) by the previous owners, and i know can understand how depleated our soil must be. Thanks for you advice.


Posted: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:30 am
by Adrian
I have a idea for you but it may be alot of work but it should help. If you could use small square bales of straw and hay you could place these along the contour line of your steep hills that you have problems with. Firstly your cattle will love you for it, and also by doing this it will also stop alot of runoff going over the top.
If you keep placing the bales in the same place the cattle will walk along the same way and create a track so you can make it easier to get to the harder areas as you progress in repairing your land.
I havn't had any experince with braken before, so this is only a thought i came up with as i was reading this topic.
I have started doing a blog on the pig farm i work at so people can see the ups and downs of what im trying to achive. It would be nice if you could do the same, so if i come across someone in your position i can tell them what you have tried while repairing your land.
As Duane pointed out to me a picture tells a thousand words, if you took photos of the area before you start, you can go back and see for yourself how you are moving ahead.
All the best! :D

Posted: Sat Jan 17, 2009 12:57 pm
by duane
Hey Adrian

It doesnt take a good farmer long to pick this stuff up.
You farmers are getting pretty good at this...good advice Adrian. This would certainly aid the repair process Marni needs for her bracken problem.

Theory is one thing.but what farmers need is good old practical advice they can carry out...that's where youfarmers can all help one another.

Posted: Sat Jan 17, 2009 3:11 pm
by marni
Thanks Adrian, i really appreciate your advice and i will certainly try to give this a go, esp if i can find some cheap hay around. When you suggested the hay bales for stopping the run off, were you also meaning it is useful as mulch?? Because the cattle would probably consume most of it before it could be useful for the land.
I also do not have any man made contours ( yet) ... should this be something we should be doing, as because we are on hilly land, i find our property gets very DRY really quick, even after we have had lots of rain. [/b]

Posted: Tue Apr 21, 2009 12:42 am
by Angela Helleren
Marni, Adrian's suggestion sounds a practical address of Duane's

No.3. you need to raise the fertility with organic matter, manure anything.

If the feed is placed above the low fertility areas, the cattle leave their grateful deposits which with the following rains distribute nutrients to the land below, raising fertility and better pasture. In turn slowing future run off, rendering the bracken fern redundant. :D Goodluck!

Posted: Wed Apr 22, 2009 12:39 am
by Jodi James
I laid a large square bale 2.4 m x 1.2m at the top of a fenced off eroded gully to feed some of our ewes.

The ewes ate most of it and trampled the scraps and spread them over the ground.

We just received a heavy rain and I noticed today that as the run off from the rain flowed across the ground over the hay scraps on its way to the gully that the hay had trapped a large amount of silt and had formed a level terrace in the hay covered area.

I also noticed that there was no further erosion as would normally be expected at the top of this gully from a rain of this quantity and that no wash out of the hay had occurred, in fact the hay had held its ground.

Now there is a thick germination of oats and other seeds that were trapped in the silt.

I am impressed!

Posted: Sat Aug 29, 2009 6:53 pm
by kez
We have been rolling hay down the hills covered with bracken when we feed the stock. Where we have rolled down the hay now has very little bracken. The cows trample down the bracken and the left over hay improves the soil. This may help.

Posted: Mon Aug 31, 2009 9:56 pm
by Ian James
Sounds like a practical solution