27 September 2023

DPIRD declares war on smelly weeds

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The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development has developed a series of management packages aimed at controlling four weeds that are emerging as major threats to agricultural production.

Matricaria (pictured), stinking love grass, marshmallow and Feathertop Rhodes grass are found in various areas across the grain belt, with Feathertop Rhodes grass occurring on the side of many major roads.

The Department is in the final year of a five-year research project to better understand and control the weeds, with co-investment from the Grains Research and Development Corporation.

Project leader, Alex Douglas has been examining the biology of the weeds in order to develop integrated weed control management strategies.

“Relatively little was known about these weeds and how they respond to herbicides and other typical control measures,” Ms Douglas said.

“While not currently widespread, these weeds can be a threat to crops and pastures, as they use soil nutrients and soil moisture required for crop establishment and yield optimisation.”

She said field and glasshouse research trials were employed to understand the weeds’ characteristics and growth.

A fact sheet is currently being developed for matricaria, a smelly, winter growing weed with yellow ball flowers found across the eastern grain belt.

Ms Douglas said that while matricaria was first noted in the eastern grain belt in the 1960s, it had proliferated since the advent of reduced tillage practices in the 1990s, less livestock, bigger farms and a changing climate.

“This broadleaf weed has a pungent odour that smells like a cross between football socks and cat wee,” she said.

“Sheep do not like to eat it so it is best controlled by a selective broadleaf herbicide.”

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