Weed warriors come out of the classroom by Denys Slee

Gorse officer Andrew Leah assists a student from Ardtornish Primary School, SA, in the release of gorse spider mites.

SCHOOL KIDS are coming to the aid of farmers in the battle against weeds - an adversary that costs primary producers billions of dollars a year in lost production and on control measures.

The alliance comes in the form of the National Weed Warriors Program supported by the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Australian Weed Management, which has GRDC support.

"Over the past two years the program has proved itself an effective model in Victoria," said program leader Kate McArthur, of the Victorian Department of Primary Industries.

"This year we are taking it to a national level, ensuring that weed messages are more effectively spread across Australia.

"The program is conducted over six weeks and includes a combination of classroom and field-based studies. Teachers are given a resource kit and a person with experience with local weed issues acts as a mentor to

the students, creating an engaging, realworld experience for all involved."

Ms McArthur said the biological control of weeds was being used as the vehicle to introduce weed studies into the curriculum, giving students the, chance to rear and release control agents effective against priority weed species.

These species varied between regions but included weeds such as Paterson's Curse, thistle, gorse, bridal creeper and ragwort. A growing list of other weeds likely to be targeted includes blue heliotrope, lantana, mimosa and bellyache bush. "Weed Warriors instils in students a sense of connection to, and responsibility for, their natural surroundings," Ms McArthur said.

She said schools that want to participate should contact her on 03 9785 0136 or email kate.mcarthur@nre.vic.gov.au