FOBIF has completed a preliminary report on its project to control Needlegrasses in Castlemaine. These weeds—related to Serrated Tussock— threaten to cause serious damage to pastures and native environments. They were probably introduced into Victoria from the 1930s, and have the potential to dramatically reduce land value because infestations reduce stock carrying capacity on farmland.
FOBIF gained a small grant from the Mount Alexander Shire to attack the needlegrass problem in 2017. Over the last twelve months project has involved a FOBIF coordinator, 19 volunteers who dug up and removed the weed, one paid weed remover, numerous other residents, council and DELWP staff, as well as landcare groups and Connecting Country.
Progress of the project is shown on the map. The volunteer commitment to further monitoring and removal will continue.
The project has been a learning experience. A promising experiment has been made with control via woodchip mulching, and much has been learned about the identification and life cycle of the weeds, and how they spread. It seems very clear that Needlegrass can be spread when infested areas are mown or slashed. Seeds attach to the mower, and unless this is cleaned it spreads the seeds when it moves on to its next job. It’s important therefore that infested areas are clearly identified, and not mown till the weeds and/ or their seeds are removed. Council workers have been increasingly helpful in this respect, but it seems that a more systematic approach to managing roadsides is needed. Not only do council staff need to be well informed about roadside weeds and control methods, but private citizens—residents and contract mowers—need to be better informed about ways to avoid spreading pests.
Roadsides are a long term and ongoing challenge: FOBIF has had occasion before to draw attention to the spread of weeds via dirty machinery, and we notice recent outbreaks of St John’s Wort along roadsides which may have come in this way. We hope that projects like the Needlegrass one will improve cooperation between managers and environmentalists, with better results in the future.
In the meantime, our thanks go to our modest coordinator and the other volunteers for the enormous amount of work they have put into this project.