Producers asked to contribute to fireweed research

Producers asked to contribute to fireweed research

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PhD candidate Kusinara Wijayabandara, from UQ's School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, is looking at fireweed.

PhD candidate Kusinara Wijayabandara, from UQ's School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, is looking at fireweed.

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Scientists are turning to landowners in the search for more information on where the noxious pest fireweed is growing and how producers deal with it.

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Scientists are turning to landowners in the search for more information on where the noxious pest fireweed is growing and how producers deal with it.

PhD candidate Kusinara Wijayabandara, from UQ's School of Agriculture and Food Sciences said the information could help combat the introduced species, which reduces livestock production and costs an estimated $2.5 million a year.

"This dreaded plant -- Senecio madagascariensis Poir - is bad news for landholders," she said.

"Fireweed contains toxins known as pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which leads to liver toxicity when eaten by certain grazing animals, including cattle and horses.

"Its physical effects are awful for the animals and it's a financial burden for farmers."

Producers are being asked to fill in a 15-minute survey providing information about fireweed infestations on their land.

Fireweed was introduced from Madagascar a century ago to New South Wales' Hunter Valley, and has since then spread north along the coast.

It is found along the New South Wales coast as well as in various parts of Queensland.

"Infestations have been found in Queensland near Caboolture, Cooroy, Belli Park, Maleny, Yandina, Pelican Waters and Gympie," Ms Wijayabandara said.

"It has been reported as far north as Rockhampton and the Atherton Tablelands."

To help combat the invasive pest, Ms Wijayabandara is collaborating with UQ's Professor Steve Adkins and Dr Shane Campbell and the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries' principal weed scientist, Joe Vitelli.

"We are building on past research, looking at current management practices and hoping to develop more effective, integrated fireweed management strategies," Ms Wijayabandara said.

"I'm studying fireweed's requirements for seed germination and determining the longevity of seed in the soil.

"We will also set up experiments to examine the efficacy of selected herbicides against the plants and their seeds.

"Landholders with fireweed on their properties are providing us with an incredible amount of information, but we still need more data.

"I'm asking Australians - particularly in south-east Queensland and northern NSW, who have this weed on their land to contact us please."

Producers can complete the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/RYP6N82

Fireweed causes liver toxicity in livestock and has been reported as far north as the Atherton Tablelands.

Fireweed causes liver toxicity in livestock and has been reported as far north as the Atherton Tablelands.

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