[ASC-media] Media release: war on tussock

JCA Media jcamedia at starclass.com.au
Wed May 25 08:03:21 EST 2005

Weeds CRC Media Release 05/20

May 25, 2005


Serrated tussock - one of Australia's worst plant pests occupying more than a million hectares - is facing a resounding defeat in Victoria with the State's infestation down by nearly 40 per cent. 

There's no magic bullet for the tussock (Nassella trichotoma), says David McLaren, the unpalatable grasses project leader of the Cooperative Research Centre for Australian Weed Management from the Victorian Department of Primary Industries (DPI). 

"The campaign is working in Victoria because it has united scientists, government and farmers, and because it is community-led. 

"Over a period of ten years we've brought together all the people and groups who have an interest in eradicating this pest grass," he says. 

"The success of the group is based on shared experience and shared effort."

The Victorian Serrated Tussock Working Party was founded in 1996 and includes representatives from 27 Landcare groups, 11 local councils, five Catchment Management Authorities and two Victorian Government departments. 

"Serrated tussock is useless to stock, prolific, and extremely invasive. 

"In 1954 there were just four hectares of tussock in Victoria. "By 1980 it occupied 30,000 ha and by 1990s the weed covered 130,000 hectares in Victoria alone," says Dr McLaren. 

"Due largely to the Working Party, we've turned that around, and now we're down to 85,000 hectares."

Dr McLaren says the Victorian success is due to government, community and scientific cooperation combining to create a concentrated effort to get on top of the weed. 

"Researchers are providing the tools: chemical, biological and mechanical. 

"Government agencies are spreading the word though their extension services, while Landcare groups and individual landholders are providing on-the-spot practical control."

Dr McLaren says that two herbicides are registered for the control of serrated tussock (glyphosate and flupropanate), but that herbicides alone will not control the weed.

"Serrated tussock comes originally from Argentina and was accidentally introduced to the Monaro region in NSW before the Second World War," says Dr McLaren. 

"Researchers have gone back to South America and found three possible biological control agents: a rust, a smut and a root and crown fungus. There are no native Australian Nassella species, so were are hopeful that one or all of these natural enemies may be useful for biological control if shown to be safe for release in Australia. 

Other partial control mechanisms include fire, wind-breaks to prevent the spread of seed, cropping, shading by trees and most importantly, competition from vigorous pasture or native vegetation.

"Each tussock plant can produce 140,000 seeds a year. These can be carried by the wind for many kilometres, and spread by humans or animals," says Dr McLaren. "Seeds which become buried can remain dormant for several years and produce unwelcome seedlings after subsequent soil disturbance."

Dr McLaren says that preventing serrated tussock from seeding is the key to the program.  This prevents spread and through time the seedbank diminishes reducing the problem. 

"It's been estimated that more than thirty million hectares of southern Australia are potentially at threat from serrated tussock invasion," says Dr McLaren. 

"The strength of the Victorian Working Party has been that it has used a suite of weapons to deal with the grass, but also encouraged compliance among landholders. 

"Carrots and sticks are part of the process - rate rebates for compliance, the threat of prosecution for non-compliance," he says. 

The Serrated Tussock Working Party process has been widely admired for its success, and is being adopted as a model to combat Australia's other Weeds of National Significance (WoNS).

More information from:

Dr David McLaren, Weeds CRC
Victorian Department of Primary Industries	03-9785 0101 or 0417 366 425

Sally Vidler, Weeds CRC	07 3362 9381 or 0419 184 153

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