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Plague of grass

Mooloo’s Angel Santana says Australia faces a weed plague emergency.
Mooloo’s Angel Santana says Australia faces a weed plague emergency. Renee Pilcher

ANGEL Santana is an increasingly desperate man.

The Mooloo property owner says his postcard-perfect "tree change" acreage is stricken with what he calls "a cancer of the land".

"It's ripping me apart," said the man who wanted nothing more than to give his grandchildren somewhere fun to play when visiting grandad.

The menace is giant rat's tail grass, a noxious weed which neighbour and farmer Len Carlson says threatens to destroy a large share of Australia's agricultural productivity.

Both yesterday said the weed had become a silent killer of the Australian economy, a "sleeping giant" of a pest, rapidly spreading and often unnoticed.

As pasture, it is so tough it wears out the teeth of cattle.

Some say it makes horses crazy as well.

"This is all through the Wide Bay area, from Conondale and Kenilworth to Bundaberg and beyond," Mr Santana said.

"It's an infestation that's been out of control for years."

He says federal and state governments needed to recognise that weeds, especially this one, had become a national emergency.

"What could have been dealt with for millions of dollars if it had been recognised and acted on earlier, will now cost billions to wipe out," he said.

Mr Carlson agreed.

"I think I can say that we don't have it on our property, but the floods spread it everywhere and we have to be on watch constantly," he said.

Cattle eat it and spread it through manure. So do horses and pigs. So do vehicles.

"We make the meter reader wash his car down before he comes onto the property," Mr Carlson said.

Mr Santana, an invalid pensioner, says he cannot afford the weed killer or the stress.

 

Giant rat's tail grass facts:

The noxious weed is an epidemic in many Gympie Region areas.

It is a perennial grass growing to 1.7 metres high when seeding.

It occurs as a weed in pastures and bushland areas, particularly on poorer soils.

It produces leaf blades that are tough and difficult for cattle to graze, leading to reduced feed intake and reduced animal production.

It loosens teeth of cattle and horses while grazing and causes losses in carrying capacity and decreases production by up to 80%.

The African native is an aggressive grass that can reduce pasture productivity and cause significant degradation of natural areas.

It was originally introduced around the early 1960s in contaminated pasture seed.

GRT grass is a Class 2 declared pest plant under Queensland legislation.

The weed is capable of producing up to 85,000 seeds per square metre in a year, with initial seed viability of about 90% - and it can remain viable for up to 10 years.

For more information visit www.dpi.qld.gov.au and search Giant rat's tail grass.

Topics:  gympie weed

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