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HomeVolume 29Buffel grass declared a weed

Buffel grass declared a weed

By ERWIN CHLANDA

Buffel grass has been declared a weed and a management plan will now be formalised towards reducing its impact in Central Australia, according to Environment Minister Kate Worden.

She says the Buffel Grass Weed Advisory Committee unanimously recognises in its strategy that areas where buffel grass poses the greatest risk to biodiversity, cultural, and community values should be prioritised for management.

A management plan is due for completion by the end of the year.

The Arid Lands Environment Centre says it welcomes “this historic decision” following “a decades-long struggle to confront one of the greatest threats to the arid and semi-arid lands.

“Buffel grass is transforming landscapes and changing fire regimes,” says CEO Adrian Tomlinson.

“It is already found in every mainland state and the Northern Territory and has the potential to spread across 68% of the continent.

“In 2014, Federal Government Buffel Grass Threat Abatement Advice was released, in 2015 buffel was declared a weed in South Australia and today the Northern Territory joins the call for national coordination and resourcing.”

Mr Tomlinson says in Budget 2024, $750,000 has been invested into the strategic management of buffel grass. This includes $575,000 for program management, planning and technical services to implement buffel grass management in Central Australia.

The funding also includes $50,000 for a Fire Ready (South) Program to reduce fire risk from buffel, $75,000 for a herbicide program in Central Australia with a focus on community groups, local councils and $50,000 mapping and data analysis.

ALEC policy officer Alex Vaughan says: “Since the 1950s, buffel grass was deliberately planted at scale across Central Australia as a pasture grass and as a dust suppressant for overstocked and degraded lands.

“This moment makes clear that the ongoing proliferation of buffel grass is unacceptable. The arid lands are a site for healthy communities and Country. Our inland rivers, threatened species and sites of ecological and cultural significance must be conserved against the impact of buffel grass invasion.”

Mr Tomlinson says: “I want to acknowledge the wonderful information sharing and advocacy for a response proportional to the threat posed by buffel by the Alice Springs News over many years and pages.”

The News has asked the NT Cattlemen’s Association for comment.

PHOTO: Buffel at the Telegraph Station waterhole after which Alice Springs is named.

9 COMMENTS

  1. Haven’t read this article to the end but visited Alice and surrounding areas two weeks ago and as you know only too well the buffel grass has taken a very strong hold on the area. SUGGESTION: Hit the grass with poison NOW before it seeds, but saying that I noticed the grass did have heads.

  2. Buffel declared a weed and no protest from the pastoral industry?
    The only effective way to slow this invasive weed destroying our environment is to use biological agents and the NT Government will never allow this.
    They would have reassured the pastoralists before making this politically timed announcement.

  3. Suspect that Ralph is right on the politics and the certainly on the only means of winning the country back.
    Terrible indictment of our materialistic land use.

  4. Biological agents for the control of buffel grass may be a moot point.
    Mysterious pasture dieback in Queensland higher rainfall areas that first appeared around a decade ago is now reportedly spreading westwards into drier regions.
    The cause turns out to be a species of mealybug that infests the roots of pasture grasses (notably buffel), resulting in up to 80% dieback – it’s virtually impossible (or impractical) to control.
    Continuing wet conditions in western Queensland such as record winter rainfall that has just occurred there may aid the spread of this insect.
    I’d say it’s a matter of time before symptoms of buffel grass pasture dieback begin to be observed in the NT (remember when cane toads crossed the NT/Qld border about 35 years ago?).
    Mealybug-induced pasture dieback has profound implications for both the environment and economic viability of pastoral leases but, so far as I’m aware, there is no consideration being given to it.

  5. How specific to buffel grass is the mealy bug Alex? Would it wipe out none, some or all native grasses as well? Big questions.

  6. It’s not specific to buffel grass, Bruce, but I don’t know to what extent it impacts native species.
    Meat and Livestock Australia provides some useful information.
    Interesting to note pasture dieback also affects couch and kikuyu although apparently doesn’t kill these grasses outright.

  7. Bruce, it’s probable that the mealy bug will arrive in our region sooner or later, courtesy of humid conditions and a favourable wind. I can’t wait!
    The big question is how many old growth trees will be lost while we wait for divine intervention? The mealy bug will cause havoc to the buffel plague, a monoculture in many areas but it does also pose an undefined threat to the remnant native grasses such as Themeda.
    On a positive note buffel seed has a relatively short lifespan in the soil so I believe the native seed bank would ultimately triumph.
    The biggest question of all remains the urgency and scope of forthcoming Government action on this devastating weed. The Federal Government already pours massive public funds into Meat and Livestock Australia for amongst other research objectives, ways to combat mealy bug damage to pastures in Queensland.
    Conversely, we must demand action by all levels of Government to fund biological control measures with equal dedication and urgency to address the severe menace posed by buffel variants and hybrids to biodiversity across inland Australia.
    Given the elevated fire risks I include the risks to human health and communities that are now self evident to all.

  8. Pastoral leases excuded from declaration and pastoralists will continue to have the right to spread seed. Play on as far as we’re concerned. But it’s good if Arid Lands can feel like they’ve done something useful in the last 10 years.

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