THE future of the industry-funded Skeleton Weed Control Program hangs in the balance with a simple grower survey set to seal its fate.
Since 2001 growers in agricultural areas of WA have contributed 30 cents for every tonne of grain and seed they sell and 15c/t of hay sold.
Grains, Seeds and Hay Industry Funding Scheme Committee spokesperson Barry Large said it was time for the producers who fund the program to decide its future.
He said that due to inflation and the increasing number of properties affected by skeleton weed, should it continue, producer contributions would need to increase or the program needs to change to deal with the real decline in funding.
"There are currently 935 properties known to be affected by skeleton weed over a total area of less than 2000 hectares," Mr Large said.
"In order to maintain the current level of skeleton weed operations, the contribution rate would need to increase to 40c/t of grain and seed sold and 20c/t of hay sold."
According to Mr Large, the scheme has proved invaluable to WA growers, funding ground searches covering 402,050 hectares, with skeleton weed detected on about 45 per cent of this area.
The wet summer in 2010 followed by late season rain in 2011 promoted the growth of skeleton weed, with 1710ha infested in 2011/12 compared to 836ha in 2010/2011.
At the end of 2011/2012, 897 properties were known to be infested with skeleton weed in the WA agricultural area.
Sadly the problem could be set to get worse, with the CSIRO identifying skeleton weed as one of the 10 weeds that would potentially increase in infestation under climate change.
Skeleton weed project manager David Atkins said if the project continued and the levy increase was approved, the first point of action would be getting more people on the ground.
"We've had limited resources with 25 staff spread throughout the State on a part-time basis," Mr Atkins aid.
"We need greater paddock surveillance to stay in control of the weed."
The total cost of the 2011-12 operations of the Skeleton Weed Program was $3.17 million.
According to the Department of Agriculture and Food, about $1.656m of expenditure during the year was allocated to landholder support in the form of search assistance, funding of Local Action Groups and winter herbicide treatments.
A further $1.513m was directed to program support activities such as research, education, regulation and surveillance.
Landholders searched more than 338,700ha during the 2011-12 summer on 955 properties, while DAFWA staff searched a further 63,300ha on 193 properties as part of active surveillance of high risk 'clean' properties and checks on recently released paddocks.
Mr Large said growers had voted strongly in favour of continuing the program when they were canvassed in 2008 and he hoped they would support the project once again.
"To date, only 100 growers have completed the survey, so I would encourage growers to fill in the survey, given it takes only a few minutes," he said.
The online survey is available at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Sk eleton_Weed