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Controlling Serrated Tussock Using Tillage and Native Pasture Establishment

Trial site for Serrated Tussock controlSerrated tussock is a long-lived perennial, drought-resistant tussock grass.  Currently it is one of the worst weeds of pastures in Australia, eventually forming a monoculture unless controlled with near total loss of biodiversity and carrying capacity. Serrated tussock looks similar to some native tussock grasses so can remain unnoticed until significant infestations have developed.  It is unpalatable and indigestible to native animals and domestic stock.  Stock forced to graze it can starve to death, despite a full stomach.  When desirable pasture species are present, it is selectively avoided by grazing animals, contributing to its eventual dominance.  The seeds damage the mouths of livestock and contaminate wool. The soil seed bank in old, established infestations can contain up to 120,000 seeds per square metre.  Serrated tussock is listed as a Weed of National Significance due to its invasive nature, potential for spread and economic and environmental impacts.
Serrated Tussock infestation as well as other weeds
The GCG in cooperation with landholders in the Hall area are investigating how successfully serrated tussock and other weeds (Sweet Briar, Patterson’s Curse, and various thistles) can be controlled using rough cultivation and pasture establishment (ie, no chemical control methods).  Previous trials have shown that perennial pasture establishment is an effective long-term management regime for serrated tussock after initial infestations have been killed.  Serrated tussock seedlings will reinvade improved pasture. However, they are weak and can be smothered by vigorous, actively growing perennial pasture species.

The publication, ‘A Toolkit for Managing Serrated Tussock’ prepared in 2003 by Jane Tracey for the Upper Murrumbidgee Landcare Committee Inc has been used in developing the project.

Initially a vigorous ryegrass and clover pasture rotation is being used for maximum short-term impact.  As that pasture declines native grasses will be direct drilled so that they predominate over the longer term. This is a unique aspect of the trial. If successful, the result will be a sustainable productive pasture that is 50% or more perennial native grass, no more than 15-20% annual grasses plus other species, maintained at 100% groundcover.
The newly erected fence
A starter fertiliser is being used for the first pasture rotation to promote vigorous growth, with soil composition being allowed to revert to a more typical local composition over time.

An Agrecon Rock-Hoppa Disc Seeder is being used for seeding.  This machine was originally developed to deal with serrated tussock at Captain’s Flat, and is now being used by others, eg, Corio Landcare Group members in Victoria, to control serrated tussock.

Some spot spraying of isolated tussock plants outside the fenced area will be necessary, and may also be necessary late in the regeneration area if isolated plants persist.

This project is funded by the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.
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