[ASC-media] Media release: task force hunts fugitive

JCA Media jca.media at starclass.com.au
Mon Sep 25 01:24:57 CEST 2006

15th Australian Weeds Conference Media Release
25 Sept 2006


A notorious, international fugitive with the potential to wreak havoc on Australia's grain exports and the environment is under attack from a special task force.

Established in 1999, this taskforce is the Branched Broomrape Eradication Program that is taking an unprecedented, "zero tolerance" approach to branched broomrape (Orobanche ramosa), a parasitic weed which has the potential to devastate Australia's temperate cropping systems and export industry.  

Now in its eighth year and with an annual budget of $4m and a 20 year strategy, the ambitious goal of the program is total eradication.  

And scientists at the 15th Australian Weeds Conference in Adelaide will report this week that the weed's numbers are declining.
In South Australia's Murray-Mallee region, where the weed was first discovered, 7,860 paddocks are contained within the Branched Broomrape Quarantine Area (over 190,000 hectares).  Less than 8% of the paddocks (almost 6,500 hectares) carry branched broomrape but the entire zone is under strict quarantine controls.  The movement of animals, machinery, fodder and people within and outside the region is stringently monitored.

Whilst current infestations occur only in South Australia, Mr Philip Warren, Manager of the Branched Broomrape Eradication Program, is quick to point out that the weed, and efforts to control it, are of nationwide importance.

"Twenty seven per cent of the agricultural areas of South Australia have the potential for infestation by branched broomrape.  Western Australia's cropping belt and much of Victoria are also prone to infestation as may be parts of New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania."

"The potential costs to Australia's export industry in particular are enormous," Mr Warren said.  "Australia's export partners - including the United States, New Zealand, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, and Iran - will refuse our produce if it's contaminated by branched broomrape.  These countries don't want their own agricultural industries decimated by this weed."

But it's not just Australia's agricultural industry the program is protecting.  With 10 native species also able to host the parasite, branched broomrape has the potential to escape from paddocks into the sensitive mallee environment.  It has already jumped the paddock fence, causing 41 roadside infestations within the quarantine area. 

Community co-operation, particularly from within the quarantine area, has been critical to the success of the program, with farmers widely adopting control procedures as standard practice.  

"The objective is simple", says Mr Warren.  "We want no seed set each year.  With no addition to the seed bank, branched broomrape will disappear."

Mr Warren said that paddocks would be freed from quarantine after 12 years with no seed set.  "The 12 year figure is based on our knowledge of the survival of branched broomrape seed in the mallee environment," he said.

It is both a measure of the success of the program - and a measure of the stringency of the quarantine controls - that the first paddock is due for release from quarantine in 2011.   

Further information:
Mr Philip Warren, Manager, Branched Broomrape Eradication Program
08 8303 9687, 0408 841 141
Warren.Philip at saugov.sa.gov.au

General media contacts: 
Mr Peter Martin 08-8303 6693, 0429 830 366 
Ms Rita Reitano 08-8303 6857, 0419 184 153

Images of branched broomrape will available from Monday 25 Sept on the media pages of 15th Australian Weeds Conference website: www.plevin.com.au/15AWC2006/

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