Weed warning as drought’s grip tightens

Drought feeding increases weed risk

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​DROUGHT FEEDING: Landholders are being advised to take precautions to reduce weed spread if buying in hay or grain to feed livestock.

​DROUGHT FEEDING: Landholders are being advised to take precautions to reduce weed spread if buying in hay or grain to feed livestock.

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Landholders are being advised to take precautions to reduce weed spread if buying in hay or grain to feed livestock.

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PRIMARY producers are being warned to take precautions to reduce the risk of weed seed spread during the current drought.

GRDC crop protection officer north, Vicki Green, said the movement of hay between regions and states had the potential to spread problem weeds.

“Like grain, hay can contain a lot of weed seeds and in the current drought conditions stockfeed is being transported vast distances as producers source whatever they can, from wherever they can,” Ms Green said. 

“During dry times I have heard anecdotal reports of hay contaminated with weed seeds affecting different properties more than 500km apart, resulting in significant infestations of new weeds.

“There is also the chance that these weed seeds will be herbicide resistant.  

“This is a potentially serious problem for agricultural production in general, with negative impacts for both cropping and pasture.”

Like grain, hay can contain a lot of weed seeds. - Vicki Green

Mrs Green said the issue of monitoring and managing new weed infestations was often compounded when it rained by the fact landholders were then focused on drought recovery practices, such as seeding, rather than weed control.

To minimise the potential for weed seed spread through the movement of hay and grain as stockfeed, the GRDC advises landholders to follow Biosecurity Queensland guidelines and take the following precautions:

- Check the origin of your hay or grain and be aware of potential weed risk. Risk can be assessed by requesting a commodity vendor declaration and asking the seller what/if weeds were present at the time of cutting hay.

- Observe any restrictions on the movement of plant material interstate and within states

- Check hay for weeds as you feed out: this may alert you to future issues.

- If possible source locally grown feed to reduce the chance of introducing new weeds to your region.

- Feed stock in a designated quarantine paddock: this will limit the area where weed seeds are dispersed for easier monitoring and management after rain. Keep stock in paddock after feeding for sufficient time for them to empty out. This paddock needs to be monitored after rain events for weed germination.

- Feed away from watercourses to reduce risk of weed spread.

- If transporting hay or grain, clean down vehicles after delivery in designated area to reduce risk of spread and make future monitoring and management easier.

- Monitor hay and grain storage areas, paddocks and roadways for new weeds.

- Post rain, identify or seek assistance to identify any new weeds to ensure the selection of appropriate control strategies.

University of Sydney weed research director Dr Michael Walsh said it was critical grain growers were proactive and took measures to reduce potential weed and herbicide resistance spread during the drought.

“When it does rain landholders need to monitor for weed seedlings, especially where they have fed out hay or grain. Ideally they need to continue montoring through the growing season and even into next season,” Dr Walsh said.

He said one of the biggest risks for Queensland and NSW grain growers during the current drought was the spread of herbicide resistant annual ryegrass populations. 

He said annual ryegrass was a dominant species of southern Australian pastures that was frequently cut for hay. 

“Since its deliberate introduction as a pasture species in the early 1900s, annual ryegrass has become widespread across temperate areas of Australia, demonstrating potential for adaptation to all croppping regions,” Dr Walsh said.

“Its distribution has increased northward and westward in NSW to now be a serious problem in the northern cropping region.

“A compounding factor with the spread of annual ryegrass is the fact many populations have developed resistance to both selective and non-selective herbicides.”

But Dr Walsh said for those struggling with drought it was really a matter of containing any potential problems by feeding out introduced hay or grain in a restricted area and then monitoring and managing weed issues when it rained.

Biosecurity Queensland general manager invasive plants and animals, John Robertson, said prevention was better than cure. 

“Farmers should ask about any weeds that were present where the fodder was grown and not accept the fodder if they are not confident about the response,” he said.

Extensive resources are available through the GRDC website to assist landholders with weed identification, management and control. 

CLICK HERE for a guide to weed identification

CLICK HERE for assistance with untegrated weed management.  

CLICK HERE for tips of managing weeds and reducing herbicide resistance

Biosecurity Queensland 13 25 23. Exotic Plant Pest hotline 1800 084 881.

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