The not-for-profit Victorian Serrated Tussock Working Party (VSTWP) is funding research into the use of fire to reduce the soil seedbank of the noxious weed Serrated Tussock (Nassella trichotoma). The research titled “Targeting the above and below ground management of serrated tussock at a landscape scale”, is led by A/Prof. Singarayer Florentine of Federation University Australia, and will be delivered over the next 12 months, with additional longer-term monitoring planned.
Serrated Tussock is a hardy and aggressive grassy weed which is found throughout temperate regions of Victorian and NSW. Serrated tussock has a devastating impact on the biodiversity of native grasslands and can drastically reduce the carrying capacity of farmland.
A variety of control strategies have been developed for this weed since the 1970s including herbicide application, competition, grazing and burning, however despite these efforts it is still continuing to expand its range.
This project aims to identify the most effective treatment combination and application order for reducing the above and below ground biomass of serrated tussock in conservation and grazing systems on a landscape scale, A/Prof. Florentine said. “There is evidence to suggest that seeds can remain dormant for several years without losing their viability meaning that managers of infested areas will need to adopt long-term management strategies, even if the weed has seemingly been eliminated. “Therefore, effective control of this weed needs to address methods that reduce the density of the seedbank, and this proposed study aims to identify strategic methods to achieve this.” The project will be conducted in the Western Grasslands Reserve, west of Melbourne, Victoria and will explore two major themes; Firstly to identify individual and integrated effectiveness of applying combinations of herbicide, fire and seeding of native grasses and forbs, in order to reduce the soil seedbank, plant density and seedling recruitment of serrated tussock in degraded grassland. Secondly, to compare the effect of proposed treatments under grazing pressures from native and introduced species.
The VSTWP are excited about the collaboration elements of the research project, with the proposal resourcing the weed management experience of Federation University researchers coupled with weed ecological expertise from Dr David McLaren, Dr David Cheal, and Em. Prof. Martin Westbrooke. VSTWP Executive Officer Martin Deering noted: “The project is strongly supported by shires, councils and natural resource management authorities who have well-established and long-term relationships with Federation University. It has been co-developed in partnership with Parks Victoria, AusEco Solutions, Melton City Council, Wyndham City Council and Golden Plains Shire Council.
One of the highlights of the research project will be the production of a YouTube online video, which will outline the results and outcomes from the research projects. This will allow the community, landowners and stakeholders to see a summary of the outcomes and apply the findings of the research. The research and field trials are expected to be completed around May 2019, which will include a final report and YouTube video. This project is funded through the Established Pest Animals and Weeds initiative, part of the Australian Government’s Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper, the government’s plan for stronger farmers and a stronger economy.