Wednesday 6 June 2018

A Pestilent Problem

The property "Blairmount" on Badgally Road has an interesting history with many associated stories. One of these is that of brothers Vic and Clive Ducat who lived at Blairmount (which at the time was called 'Belmont') in the 1920s, running a dairy herd. Vic served as an Alderman on Campbelltown Council. The brothers sold the bulk of the property in 1923, but retained some land in the area until 1929.
It was during the 1920s that Prickly Pear, an introduced noxious plant species, was having a devastating effect on rural properties, infesting over 60 million acres of land in Queensland and New South Wales. The problem was so serious that the Prickly Pear Destruction Committee was set up. In 1926 the Camden News reported that Prickly Pear was steadily insinuating itself throughout the districts of Campbelltown, Picton and Camden. The answer to eradicating this problem plant came in the form of the cactoblastis cactorum, commonly known as the Cochineal bug, the larvae of which draws food and moisture from the Prickly Pear, ultimately killing it.

from 1987 booklet "Prickly Pear Pest in NSW". An infestation of Prickly Pear. 
 Vic Ducat, whose property had been invaded, wasted no time and took up the challenge of ridding his property of the pestilential plant. After trying many methods to diminish its rapid growth, it was reported in The Campbelltown News in June 1926 that Mr Ducat had "made exhaustive enquiries throughout this and the Queensland State, and learned of the Cochineal Insect, and with fervent haste, procured a supply of this combating enemy". The insect was applied, despite local skepticism, to a portion of the offending plants, and within 18 months, the results were being reported as "a huge success at little cost". The story continued with "...the results are conspicuous. The patch is now dying and the insects have traversed 60 to 100 yards in every direction."
This biological control agent was so successful that by the 1930s all large infestations of Prickly Pear in Australia had been successfully reduced. Vic Ducat played his small part in one of the most successful stories of weed control in Australia.

Written by Claire Lynch
"Campbelltown's streets and suburbs : How and why they got their names" by Jeff McGill, Verlie Fowler and Keith Richardson
Grist Mills Vol. 9 No.1
"Badgally Road Campbelltown : The other side of the line" by Marie Holmes

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