Weeds a ‘slow-moving bushfire’

Farmers say they are facing the equivalent of a potential “slow-moving bushfire” as the growth of invasive weeds such as African lovegrass and serrated tussock explodes following a wet summer.

“We need to think of invasive species like African lovegrass as a slow-moving bushfire,” NSW Farmers spokesperson, Craig Mitchell says.

“When there is a bushfire, we all get out there and help put it out so we need to have the same attitude when it comes to weeds if we’re going to have any chance of getting them under control.”
As NSW awaits the appointment of an Independent Biosecurity Commissioner to improve future management of invasive species, NSW Farmers are urging all land managers to work together on weed control. Mr Mitchell says the state’s struggle with weeds has reached a tipping point, with some public and private land managers failing to meet their responsibilities.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) estimated in an average year, pest weeds and animals cost farmers at least $5.3 billion, with weeds accounting for 82 per cent of the total cost.

Mr Mitchell says these costs will continue to increase and become compounded by the time and resources required to control the issue on-farm.

“The chemicals are expensive enough, but the time is a huge problem as well,” Mr Mitchell said. “With weeds like serrated tussock, it takes weeks to get it under control and it’s getting worse every year. We’re fighting with one hand tied behind our back if we don’t all tackle this problem across all lands in a coordinated way.”

Failure of some land managers to address the problem remains a great concern to Farmers NSW because they say the weeds continue to gain ground throughout regional NSW.

“As these invasive species cover more ground, we’re seeing farm production decrease and the cost of production skyrocket as farm businesses grapple with the problem,” said Mr Mitchell.

“And the problem is not confined to farm profitability – unique native grasslands are being slowly overrun and degraded by weeds so constant vigilance is now the only way forward when it comes to weeds – as soon as you see them, you’ve got to control them.

“We need a cross-tenure, cross-landscape approach to managing weeds that’s more intensive and enforceable than anything we currently have in place,” said Mr Mitchell. “Until we get that, we need to create and execute a solid weed control plan on our own properties, or else we risk losing the battle.”

To read the Biosecurity Amendment (Independent Biosecurity Commissioner) Bill 2023 Statement of Public Interest, go to:

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