Workshop to tackle Chilean Needle Grass

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Chilean Needle Grass is a highly invasive weed which could potentially devastate agriculture in North Eastern Victoria. This was the focus of a Chilean Needle Grass workshop held by the Gecko CLaN. The workshop brought together landholders, local shire councils including Greater Shepparton City Council and Benalla Rural City Council, Vicroads, Goulburn Broken CMA and the latest scientific advice.

In Victoria Chilean Needle Grass is classed as a restricted weed, prohibiting the trade of products contaminated with the seed.This has immense financial implications for primary producers as the seed readily contaminates crops, hay and fodder. In particular the grass poses problems for the sheep industry as the needle like seed burrows into fleece and skin causing injury and downgrading of the wool to skirtings and rejection of the carcase. Heavy infestations of CNG can severely reduce pasture productivity by up to 50%.

Alarmingly, the invasion is occurring largely unnoticed as it is commonly mistaken for other native grasses especially spear grasses, wallaby grasses and tall fescue.  At present most of the infestations are on roadsides and waterways. The grass is easily dispersed but is primarily spread through attaching itself to vehicles, machinery and animals.

The workshop included a presentation by Charles Grech, a leading researcher in Chilean Needle Grass who spoke about the extent and threat of Chilean Needle Grass to the community, land and biodiversity. Pat Minogue from the Corowa Shire spoke about Chilean Needle Grass control programs that have been implemented in NSW shires. A workshop session was then conducted which established some actions for tackling this problem, including control methods, use of signage and community education.

The workshop is the first step in developing a coordinated management plan for Chilean Needle Grass. It highlighted the need for different groups and stakeholders to work together through sharing knowledge, strategies and resources in order to achieve coordinated and successful action. The group will meet again in August to agree on a management plan.

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