26 September 2023

Summer search for weedy skeletons

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The summer search campaign for the pest plant, skeleton weed, is under way across the Grainbelt.

Project manager at the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Martin Atwell said the declared weed, with its striking yellow flower and skeleton-like stems, robbed crops of nitrogen and soil moisture, impacting yields and quality.

“Seven Local Action Groups will cover 180 properties across more than 55,000 hectares. Drones will be used to search about 10,000 hectares of the 2022 surveillance area,” Mr Atwell said.

“Surveillance will be undertaken from Geraldton in the north, to Katanning in the south and east to Esperance.”

He said this activity would be a critical part of the larger Summer Search Program, which would cover known infested properties and cover more than 400,000 hectares across the State.

“The Skeleton Weed Management Guide has been recently revised with new information about permitted use of key chemicals and updated treatment rates,” Mr Atwell said.

“Funds are also being directed to research investments to help reduce overall skeleton weed infestations, including a new project on pollen monitoring and an ongoing initiative examining biocontrol options.”

Senior Research Scientist at the Department, John Moore said the pollen project involved trialling the use of spore traps to identify the distribution and spread of skeleton weed.

“At the moment we don’t know how much pollen skeleton weed produces and how far it travels on the wind,” Mr Moore said.

“This trial will examine whether it is possible to monitor skeleton weed pollen and, if so, whether spore traps could be used to identify the presence of skeleton weed in areas of low infestation to help prove area freedom, as well as detect unknown infestations.”

More information on the Skeleton Weed Program, including the Skeleton Weed Management Guide and annual report can be accessed at this PS News link.

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