Grassroots action targets worst weed

24 May 2016

A strategy to manage one of Australia’s worst weeds, silverleaf nightshade, has been developed by harnessing the power of local farmers, advisers and community groups to drive the program.

NSW Department of Primary Industries senior research scientist, Hanwen Wu, said funding from Meat & Livestock Australia and Australian Wool Innovation supported the ground up approach which trialled a new dual action approach to weed management.

“Silverleaf nightshade can be controlled through timing and persistence and these improved long-term control options offer on-farm economic benefits for farmers and environmental outcomes for the community,” Dr Wu said.

“The dual action approach is a key element in managing silverleaf nightshade - it ensures that equal focus is given to preventing seed set and reducing the seedbank in addition to controlling the extensive root system, which is a major source of new growth.

“The first action uses a combination of grazing, slashing or herbicides, which aims to prevent 100 per cent seed set and must occur in late spring or early summer when plants are at early flowering and before green berries form.

“Later in the season roots are targeted in a second action, based on research which shows herbicide impact on roots is greatest when plants begin to shut down in autumn.”

As part of the national project, Dr Wu and his team have established more than 350 on-farm trials across Australia, covering a total area of 95,000 hectares with 150 trials in NSW, from Nullamanna in the far north of the state to Culcairn in the south.

Thanks to the support of Landcare networks, private agronomists, landholder and community groups, local knowledge has been mined and developed to foster adoption of best management practices to manage the weed across the country.

Training in best management practices has been delivered at more than 40 workshops to more than 710 farmers and advisers nationwide in 2014 and 2015 to improve awareness, knowledge and confidence in managing this invasive weed.

Silverleaf nightshade is a Weed of National Significance (WoNS), with widespread infestations in NSW, Victoria and South Australia and localised infestations in Western Australia and Queensland.

The highly persistent summer-active perennial invades crops and pastures, and has been known to cause yield losses of up to 75 per cent in the eastern states.

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Media contact: Bernadette York (02) 6938 1664, 0427 773 785