Over the last decade or so, splatter guns have proven to be an effective weed control tool in the ongoing war to manage lantana and other weeds.
Popular legend traces the splatter gun back to northern NSW where a frustrated land manager improvised an old drenching gun as a method of delivering herbicide to weeds in difficult to reach areas such as cliff faces and over the neighbour’s fence. With a bit of practice, it was found that the jet stream of herbicide could be aimed with precision in forested areas out to a distance of 8-10 metres. Provided the concentration of herbicide was higher than normal, only a fraction of the leaf area needed to be wet to achieve good kill rates.
Over time, a number of nifty attachments have been added, such as a gas bottle powered gun to save tired pumping arms and a special 4WD attachment to save tired legs. However, the basic drenching gun style handpiece remains the same.
At this point I would like to mention the oddity of the name ‘splatter gun’. This term is probably better associated with graphic video games designed for people who have never heard of ‘environmental weeds’. It certainly does not fit the precise and targeted delivery of a stream of high concentration herbicide. Possibly something that video gamers aspire to! Of course I tried to think of a better name but couldn’t come up with anything sensible.
Unlike other foliar spray methods, the splatter gun is designed to shoot a stream of herbicide, not a spray nor even a splatter. This stream is delivered in a single line out to around ten metres, with each line separated by about two metres. The concentration of herbicide is increased, so there is not the normal requirement to wet all the foliage. As a bonus, the total volume of herbicide used is decreased.
- Splatter guns are great for use in forested areas where targeted streams of herbicide can be shot around sensitive native vegetation, sleeping wallabies or nesting birds etc.
- They are perfect for steep terrain and other difficult-to-reach areas.
- Splatter guns require less herbicide than conventional foliar spray packs, so this reduces the risk of residual herbicide damage and reduces the impact on the wallet too.
- When delivered from a five litre backpack, splatter guns are easy to carry and manoeuvre through thick bush, even my Mum can do it.
- The number of weeds controlled is limited by how fast your Mum can walk.
- Splatter guns usually come with a five litre backpack that needs to be regularly refilled when managing large areas.
- There is the possibility of overspray from splatter guns on windy days or with inexperienced operators.
- If the splatter gun is powered by gas, the gas bottles can be expensive to refill.
Demonstrating a splatter gun at a workshop. Note that gloves should always be worn when handling herbicide, but this gun was only filled with water for demonstration purposes.
Studies in northern NSW have shown that an experienced operator can shoot a one second stream of approximately 20 ml, out to ten metres, once every two metres. This means at normal walking speed, in hilly terrain with 50% lantana coverage, a single operator can cover 0.25 ha in around 45 minutes using 20 litres (9:1 water to glyphosate mix). Try doing that with a normal foliar sprayer!
Trials in Queensland and NSW have led to splatter guns being used to control blackberry, raspberry and bellyache bush. Trials around Grandchester, near where I live, are planned to test the effectiveness of the splatter gun on my neighbour’s straying cat (of course, without herbicide).
So whilst the splatter gun may be oddly named, it is certainly proving to be a valuable addition to the range of weed control tools now available. NJ Phillips appears to be the only manufacturer in Australia and their splatter guns can be ordered directly from them or through www.thefarmstore.com.au for about $550. Some Local Governments in SEQ will loan splatter guns to Land for Wildlife members, so if you are interested, it is best to ask your Land for Wildlife Officer.
Article by Peter Copping Land for Wildlife Officer Logan City Council