Summer skeleton weed search is underway

Summer skeleton weed search is underway

Grains
Lakes Local Action Group Skeleton Weed co-ordinator Lynette Carruthers with a drone used in 2018-19 skeleton weed surveillance over summer.

Lakes Local Action Group Skeleton Weed co-ordinator Lynette Carruthers with a drone used in 2018-19 skeleton weed surveillance over summer.

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Paddock searches for skeleton weed this summer are set to start, with landholders reminded to keep watch for the weed, which can tie up nitrogen and soil moisture and cut crop yields.

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PADDOCK searches for skeleton weed this summer are set to start, with landholders reminded to keep watch for the weed, which can tie up nitrogen and soil moisture and cut crop yields.

The search program is a combined effort between farmers, the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) and six local action groups (LAGs).

While traditional vehicle surveillance accounts for the majority of the program, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or drones) are also covering more ground.

The summer searching program focuses on infested properties and is complemented by targeted surveillance aimed at finding new infestations that landholders may not be aware of.

DPIRD project manager Martin Atwell said skeleton weed was a declared plant which reduced crop yields by competing for moisture and nutrients.

"The weed can often be found in paddocks at harvest time and is most recognisable when flowering during summer and autumn - it has bright yellow daisy flowers," Mr Atwell said.

"Skeleton weed has upright and usually leafless stems which gives the appearance of the skeleton of a plant."

While DPIRD and LAG officers will be contacting landholders to participate in targeted surveillance, all farmers are reminded to be on the lookout.

"Skeleton weed can be more readily eradicated from a farm when it is found in the first year after establishment, therefore early detection is vital and every year we have properties where skeleton weed is eradicated," Mr Atwell said.

Skeleton weed program activities are funded by industry through the Grains, Seeds and Hay Industry Funding Scheme (IFS).

IFS management committee chairman Rohan Day said the skeleton weed program encompassed summer searching of infested paddocks, surveillance to locate new infestations before they establish, treatments, one-on-one support for growers, along with research, development and extension.

"The committee has approved changes to the program to support growers with skeleton weed infestations and therefore try to better control the spread," Mr Day said.

"These include additional chemical control options for growers.

"Research trialling differing chemical applications and application timings is underway and will be assessed for inclusion in 2020.

"We will also be incorporating lessons learned to improve the use of UAVs, which are a relatively new inclusion and are delivering promising outcomes."

Surveillance in 2019-20 is targeted to cover more than 46,000 hectares.

Any suspicious plants should be reported using the MyPestGuide Reporter app or the Pest and Disease Information Service on 9368 3080 or padis@dpird.wa.gov.au.

More information on the skeleton weed program, including the management guide for growers, is available from agric.wa.gov.au/ skeletonweed

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