New facility the jewel in crown for school's ag program
MONTO State High School has unveiled a new project to combat the spread of an invasive species devastating the North Burnett's agricultural sector.
The bio-control facility, a partnership between the school, the North Burnett Regional Council and Landcare, was officially opened on Wednesday.
The original facility was built on the campus in 2014 by Landcare the Burnett Mary Regional Group, but was seldom used and fell into disrepair.
Extensive modifications have brought the space back to life in a major boost for the school's science and agriculture programs.
Students will use the research centre to help local vegetation overrun by cat's claw.
The revamped facility is breeding jewel beetles - bugs evolved to eat the destructive plant and curb its spread in the North Burnett.
Council's natural resource management officer, Jenny Voigt, said floods had allowed the pest to thrive along the Burnett River.
"Cat's claw is an environmental weed but it's just as devastating as agricultural weeds,” she said.
"Once it spreads to trees and enters the canopy it flowers and seeds.
"It can completely smother the environment.
"The insects will be released and are specifically bred for cat's claw. They won't kill the plant but they will reduce its vigour.
"It's not a silver bullet but it slows down the process and allows other methods to work.”
Monto SHS principal Kylie Cochran said students would benefit from taking part in a real-world pest management project.
"It's a fantastic facility,” Mrs Cochran said.
"It will open up research-based career opportunities for our science, agriculture and humanities students.
"Now it's set up, we have the scope to invite universities to use the facility and run presentations.
"We have developed relationships with the council and landowners so the students will be able to go out on field trips to monitor the progress.”
The jewel beetles' breeding phase is expected to be completed in three to four months.
If you're interested in obtaining insects to fight cat's claw on your, contact the North Burnett Regional Council.