HELP OUT: PhD candidate Kusinara Wijayabandara, from UQ's School of Agriculture and Food Sciences is looking for more information.
HELP OUT: PhD candidate Kusinara Wijayabandara, from UQ's School of Agriculture and Food Sciences is looking for more information.

Scientists seek landholder help to combat invasive weed

RESEARCHERS are asking landholders for on-the-ground information about where a highly invasive plant is growing and how they deal with it.

This information from members of the public could help combat Fireweed, which is one of eastern Australia’s worst invasive species according to UQ PhD candidate Kusinara Wijayabandara.

“This dreaded plant — Senecio madagascariensis Poir – is bad news for landholders,” said Ms Wijayabandara.

“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.”

Fireweed reduces livestock production and cost an estimated $2.5 million a year.

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

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.”

She said there was already good data from many landowners, but was needed.

“I’m asking Australians – particularly in southeast Queensland and northern NSW, who have this weed on their land to contact us please,” she said.

“They will be helping to fight fireweed and to protect animals and farmers.”

The survey takes about 15 minutes to complete and can be accessed here.

Ms Wijayabandara said information collected through the survey would provide a better understanding of fireweed’s distribution and impacts, and would give insight on control options landholders are currently using.

The Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries is providing operational support for the project.


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