posted 23 October, 2020

Stopping the spread of serrated tussock

NRM South was proud to support Glamorgan Spring Bay Council and Tasman Council at a recent serrated tussock workshop in Triabunna. The workshop welcomed around 50 attendees, who were keen to find out more about why serrated tussock is raising alarm bells on the East Coast.

Serrated tussock is an extremely invasive pasture weed that has a significant potential to impact our agricultural and natural spaces.

Serrated tussock is an extremely invasive pasture weed that can have severe impacts on agricultural pasture production and grazing animal welfare. If not actively managed, it can quickly take over paddocks. Although serrated tussock has likely been in Tasmania since the 1950s, in recent years the rate and extent of its spread has become a serious cause for concern.

Local landholders who have been working to control the spread of serrated tussock on their properties provided valuable insights into why management is more than just the everyday reality of weed control for farmers. Bruce Dunbabin, a local wool grower, explained that one of the biggest challenges is simply identifying the plant. ‘It looks a lot like a native grass’, he explained. ‘It took me about 18 months to really get the hang of identifying it. I didn’t realise the extent of the problem, but Glamorgan Spring Bay Council staff have given me a lot of help with management.’

Mel Kelly, Natural Resource Manager for the Glamorgan Spring Bay Council detailed the work that has been going on in the region to combat the spread of the weed, including a federally funded project to help landholders carry out serrated tussock control on their properties. However, the extent of the weed’s spread is still in question.

‘Unfortunately, the more we look, the more we find it’, said Mel. ‘We know the core areas of infestations, but we don’t know the outer limits of how far out it has spread.’ From a small group of 11 landholders known to have the weed on their property just a few years ago, GSB council staff now say that they know of around 75 landholders dealing with serrated tussock, which means more work for landholders and council staff alike.

Charles Grech joins the serrated tussock workshop via video link.

Control strategies for serrated tussock infestations depend on the severity and extent of the problem and part of the workshop called on the expertise of Charles Grech, a Victorian agronomist with experience in serrated tussock who joined via video link. Charles detailed what had worked well in Victoria – where serrated tussock is an even bigger issue – and presented on a range of control strategies.

Charles explained that identifying where a serrated tussock infestation had come from, and how to contain the spread, were critical to control efforts.

‘You can stop it coming in via a number of ways, if you know where it’s come from but seeds coming in on the wind or via wild animals will always be a factor, and not as easily controlled,’ said Charles. ‘The rest is down to monitoring.’ Charles also emphasised the importance of using a range of approaches and not just relying on one technique.

Mel Kelly with detector dog ‘Fonz’

The use of specifically trained detector dogs is one innovative technique that is being used to sniff out this stubborn weed. As part of the afternoon field trip out to a local landholder’s property, workshop attendees were treated to an enthusiastic hunt thanks to ‘Fonz’, Tasmania’s first detector dog trained to search out serrated tussock. Property owner, Hayden Dyke, has been successfully managing this weed on his property for the last few years so although the grasses were few and far between, Fonz was still able to spot a few emerging plants.

The workshop was well received and gave a comprehensive overview of the different approaches available to landholders. The main take-home message was that persistence is key in controlling serrated tussock, which has an enormous potential to spread across Tasmania, choking out productive land and infesting high value conservation areas of native grasslands.

Thanks to Mayor Young (Glamorgan Spring Bay), landholders Tom and Bruce Dunbabin, Karen Stewart (Biosecurity Tasmania), Charles Grech (Paddock Solutions) and Rod Hancl (Nutrien Ag solutions) for presenting at the workshop, and to landholder Hayden Dyke for hosting the field trip on his property. You can find out more about what Hayden has been doing to control serrated tussock on his property here and a recently developed notesheet on serrated tussock management is available here. The Tasmanian Government also has online resources available for management.

This project is funded by the Australian Government under the Communities Combating Pests and Weed Impacts During Drought Program, and supported by NRM South, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program and the Tasmanian Government’s core support for Natural Resource Management.

If you have serrated tussock on your property and are looking for assistance, the Tasmanian Weeds Action Fund is open for applications until November 1. The Weeds Action Fund is a $5 million Tasmanian Government initiative, funded for five years from 2018-19. The funds provided by the state government will be invested with farmers and other community organisations to tackle weeds like serrated tussock, that are impacting valuable agricultural and environmental assets. Find out more here: