27 April, 2016

Breakthrough in control of noxious weed African Lovegrass

A project team of scientists and land managers in Western Sydney has discovered what appears to be an effective control for one the state’s most invasive and difficult-to-control weeds.

African Lovegrass infests large areas of southeast and southwest Australia, smothering the understorey of native woodlands, choking out productive agricultural pasturelands, and costing public and private land managers millions of dollars to control.

The project team has discovered that using fire and herbicide in tandem can break the Lovegrass dominance, allowing highly degraded ecosystems to be restored to health.

The team came up with the successful treatment while trialling a range of approaches in degraded woodlands in Scheyville and Cattai National Parks in Sydney’s west where African Lovegrass has taken hold in remnants of Cumberland Plain Woodland, an endangered ecological community.

“This new approach gives us hope that we can arrest the decline of large areas of grassy woodlands that are being degraded by this highly invasive species,” Michelle Rose from the NSW Nature Conservation Council said. “If the lessons we have learned in Western Sydney prove successful in other places, this could be a significant breakthrough in the control of this scourge.”

Jonathan Sanders from NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service said: “African Lovegrass is a highly resilient species of tussock grass that can alter both paddocks and grassy woodlands by forming thick monocultures and suppressing the growth of other plant species. This is devastating for the native animals that rely on these natural ecosystems for their survival.  Once it dominates an area, it is very difficult to get rid of it as it survives fire well, and is difficult to kill with herbicide alone as it comes back from its large seedbank.  We are optimistic that the approach of combining fire and herbicide that we have pioneered in Sydney’s west will enable this species to be better controlled.”

Charles Morris from Western Sydney University said: “African Lovegrass has proven to be a very difficult weed to control. It regrows quickly after fire, outcompeting native species, and when poisoned it creates a thick thatch that inhibits the germination of native species. Combining the use of fire and herbicide seems to be the answer. The Lovegrass sward is consumed by the fire, and the herbicide limits Lovegrass re-sprouting and germination. The current trials have demonstrated that it is possible to break the dominance of African Lovegrass, even in the most disturbed sites.”

The project has been assisted by the NSW Government through its Environmental Trust, and involved more than three years of work.  There is already keen interest in the project results amongst other land managers.

PROJECT TITLE: Using Fire as a Restoration Tool in Cumberland Plain Vegetation

PROJECT TEAM:  The team included personnel from the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Western Sydney University, NSW Nature Conservation Council, Australian Association of Bush Regenerators, Muru Mittigar Aboriginal Centre, and Aquila Ecological –The team has produced a booklet outlining the findings of its research.

RESULTS: Download the team’s research findings, titled Using Fire to Manage Priority Weeds in Cumberland Plain Vegetation: African Lovegrass.

http://www.nature.org.au/media/213734/cumberland_african-lovegrass_web_jan2016.pdf

 

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