National Weeds and Productivity Research Program
The Australian Government has committed $15.3 million over four years, from 2008-09 to establish a new comprehensive National Weeds and Productivity Research program that will reduce the impact of invasive plants on farm and forestry productivity and also on biodiversity.
In 2008-09 under the first stage of the National Weeds and Productivity Research program the government funded 39 weed research projects worth nearly $3.6 million. These projects build on existing work and will enhance the innovation of approaches to management of weeds. Short descriptions of these projects are provided further below.
In 2009-10 the then Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Tony Burke, appointed the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation to develop a five year strategic plan for weed research and manage the second stage of the program.
The program focuses on improving the management of invasive plants in agriculture, forests, pastures and native vegetation by:
- investigating the most serious invasive plant problems in Australia
- uniting national experts, land managers and stakeholders to improve the understanding of how to manage the risks associated with invasive plants
- ensuring better coordination and information exchange between researchers, land managers and regulatory agencies for the management of invasive plants.
In November 2010, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Joe Ludwig, and Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Dr Mike Kelly, approved the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation’s five year plan for the second stage of the program.
- RIRDC Open-call Grant Guidelines: Application guidelines for the National Weeds and Productivity Research Program. The closing date for applications is 13 December 2010.
- The joint media release announcing the five year plan and the open-call grant guidelines is a new research to help find weed solutions for Australia
The $15.3 million funding includes $0.3 million to undertake a comprehensive fireweed control research program. The government selected the University of New England to undertake this work, which is now underway and further information is available at:
- Australian Government invests in fireweed research (media release, 6 October 2010)
- University of New England, fireweed research
Details of the 39 weed research projects worth nearly $3.6 million from the first stage of the National Weeds and Productivity Research program follow:
Overcoming paraquat resistance: The potential for herbicide mixtures to reverse paraquat resistance – The University of Western Australia – $71 000
Paraquat is a non-selective herbicide that is widely used for total weed control in agriculture and industry. Overuse of this herbicide has resulted in evolved paraquat resistance in five weed species in Australia. This applied project will evaluate the potential to develop paraquat synergists to overcome paraquat resistance.
Using UAVs and Innovative Classification Algorithms in the Detection of Cacti – University of Sydney – $108 575
Remote regions and large pastoral holdings often contain places that are difficult to access. When weeds establish in these areas they can form monocultures and present problems in detection, management and eradication. Using Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs), this project aims to demonstrate a system that can be used over remote and rugged terrain to produce a cost-effective surveillance tool for cacti.
Biological control of weedy sporobolus species by the fungus Nigrospora oryzae – Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology – $94 391
Biological control has the potential to replace or augment current control methods for Sporobolus species. The endemic fungus Nigrospora oryzae has been confirmed as causing disease and death in S. fertilis. This project aims to evaluate its potential for biological control of weedy Sporobolus species in Australia.
Developing Best Practice methods to manage invasion pathways of gamba grass – Northern Territory Department of Natural Resources, Environment, the Arts and Sport – $163 317
Strategic Management of gamba grass is an urgent weed management need in Northern Australia where invasion has increased substantially in the NT, WA and QLD in the past decade and will have major costs for government through spread management and impact mitigation. This project will inform best-practice management by developing and testing cost effective aerial survey techniques appropriate for a range of infestation densities, identifying primary spread mechanisms to target containment resources, and deliver recommendations on priority areas for control.
Managing weeds and herbicides in a genetically modified farming system – NSW Department of Primary Industries – $140,417
The introduction of Roundup Ready, Liberty Link and InVigor varieties brings opportunities and challenges for weed management in cotton and canola. Farmers have a wide control window with the ability to control small to medium sized weeds, but there is no clear guideline as to when weeds should be controlled. This project aims to define a weed control threshold for transgenic cotton and canola that will allow farmers to optimize their weed management, improving yields, eliminating unnecessary pesticide applications, benefiting the crop and the environment and reducing the risk of herbicide resistance.
Implementation of Biological Control of Chilean needle grass and Serrated Tussock – Victorian Department of Primary Industries – $115,500
This project is investigating biological control options for controlling Chilean needle grass (CNG) and serrated tussock that are major agricultural weeds and are also threatening processes to iconic rare and endangered grasslands in the basalt plains of Southern Australia. The project has identified the rust pathogen, Uromyces pencanus in Argentina as an excellent candidate for biological control of CNG in Australia. This project will complete host specificity testing of U. pencanus and enable its introduction and release in Australia if it is host specific.
Protecting agricultural production and iconic Australian grasslands from herbicide resistant serrated tussock – Victorian Department of Primary Industries – $158,200
Serrated tussock is a Weed of National Significance costing Australia more than $50 million a year and is a recognised threatening process to rare indigenous "ICONIC" grasslands. Flupropanate is the most important herbicide for serrated tussock management. Recent studies have confirmed serrated tussock resistant to flupropanate. This project aims to address this issue by undertaking wide-scale paddock/property surveys around confirmed "serrated tussock resistance properties" and involving community groups to work together to deal with this issue. A proactive assessment and remedial action of this situation may potentially save flupropanate as a serrated tussock management tool for Australia.
Best practice for making strategic decisions about weeds of commercial value – CSIRO – $84,123
A number of plant species introduced to Australia are important as both weeds and commercially productive species. Contrasting species’ roles and divergent stakeholder perspectives lead to conflicting interests. This project will identify approaches to a more thorough analysis of economic, environmental and social costs and benefits of these species and explore effective policy, regulatory and management options for dealing with species that are both weedy and beneficial.
Molecular Control of Reproduction in Weeds – CSIRO – $116,874
Wild radish (Raphanus raphanistrum) costs the Australian grains industry $140 million p.a. in weed control and lost production. Repeated evolution of herbicide resistance means that new non-herbicide control strategies are required to manage this weed in Australian cropping systems. This project will undertake additional experiments and genetic population simulation studies to verify the practical utility of SP11-based fertilisation blocking for broad scale weed control. It will also examine whether this approach can be used to control self-incompatible environmental weeds - in particular the coastal weed Cakile maritima.
Ecological approach to landscape restoration of wetlands degraded by invasive grasses – CSIRO – $60,072
Recent experimental research conducted in North Queensland has demonstrated the potential for using fire to restore wetlands of conservation significance that have been degraded by invasive naturalised pasture grasses such as para grass (Urochloa mutica) and the Weed of National Significance species hymenachne (Hymenachne amplexicaulis). This project aims to test and improve the application of these best practice techniques at a landscape scale. In particular it will determine the extent to which the interaction between inundation and prescribed burning can be exploited to restore wetland structure, function and biodiversity.
Quantifying aquatic weed impacts and reducing herbicide use through seasonal efficacy trials – Queensland Primary Industries and Fisheries – $26,500
This project will quantify the impacts of multiple free floating aquatic species by comparing the world’s worst aquatic weed species (including Salvinia, a Weed of National Significance) to native species from the same functional group. The results of the project will inform best practice methodology and reduce reliance on herbicide.
Pollen-mediated gene flow in weed species from adjacent farms into organic farms - The University of Western Australia - $34,735
The aim of this study is to investigate introgression of herbicide resistance genes in organic farms’ fields from adjacent conventional farms characterized by intensive herbicide use.
Novel platform technologies for weed diagnostics and their potential application in Australia – Victorian Department of Primary Industries – $117,652
Rapid and accurate identification of plant species and biotypes is crucial both for detecting incursions of exotic species and for managing established weeds. However, reliable weed species diagnosis is dependent on increasingly scarce specialist taxonomists, often requires collection of reproductive structures, and provides no measure of genetic diversity. Novel molecular diagnostics and genetic diversity assessment methods, including ‘DNA barcoding’, offer solutions to these limitations. This project will review the applicability of these next generation technologies to Australian weed management, analyse the costs and benefits of such research, and assess and prioritise current research needs through consultation with key stakeholders.
Fencelines and roadsides as invasion sites for problematic weed species - Birchip Cropping Group Inc. – $42,400
A random survey will determine the occurrence and distribution of weed species/biotypes along roadsides and fence-lines throughout the southern Mallee region of Victoria. Seed bank levels and herbicide resistance status will be determined for the species and biotypes collected. The aim is to identify weed species and biotypes that pose the greatest threats to production agriculture if incursion and dispersal is allowed to occur from roadside and fence-line areas into farming zones.
Integrating Adaptive Weed Management and Biodiversity Conservation in the Blue Mountains – Blue Mountains City Council – $5,627
This project aims to quantify the impacts of Weeds of National Significance on biodiversity in the Blue Mountains and suggest how the most effective weed management strategies can also incorporate biodiversity conservation.
Predicting ecosystem invisibility: towards spatial prioritisation of weed management – The University of Melbourne – $102,530
The primary aim of this project is to develop a methodology for characterising and predicting ecosystem invasibility toward future development of systematic weed management prioritisation strategies. In the case study region ecosystems and habitats most at risk of exotic plant invasion now and in the future will be indentified. This approach will be fully scaleable so that predictions of invasion risk and prioritisation of risk management can be applied at multiple scales.
Livestock grazing: a practical tool to control exotic grasses in remnant vegetation? – CSIRO – $76,110
Grassy ecosystems in south-eastern Australia have largely been cleared or modified. What little remains of these ecosystems are endangered by exotic grass invasion. Controlling exotic grasses in conservation areas has proven difficult, particularly in grassy systems with trees or shrubs. This project will examine data from an extensive database on grazing management and plant community composition assembled by Southern Rivers CMA to determine if strategic livestock grazing could be a valuable tool for controlling multiple species of exotic grasses, while maintaining or increasing the native plant cover and diversity in native grassy ecosystems.
Lippia biological control – CSIRO – $165,166
Lippia is an important weed of wetlands in rangeland Australia, and has been recently nominated as a key threatening process in NSW. The native-range component of the lippia biological control program is at an advanced stage. This project will continue the native-range work to a stage where the first of the natural enemies with greatest potential can be imported into Australian quarantine for detailed assessment. It will also finalise genetic work that is underpinning the biological control program, including determining whether the closely related species P. nodiflora is native to Australia.
Biological control and ecology of cabomba and alligator weed – CSIRO – $240,920
Alligator weed (Alternanthera philoxeroides) and cabomba (Cabomba caroliniana) are two aquatic Weeds of National Significance. Due to economic, social, and environmental impacts and difficulty of control through conventional methods, biological control is recognised as key research component in their national strategies. The proposed project is the culmination of two prior projects aimed at finding safe and effective biological agents. Work has already been undertaken to identify, prioritise, and test host specificity of several potential invertebrate agents. This project will allow the completion of host testing of two agents and evaluate two alternative management methods.
Field host range of high priority potential biocontrol agents of Parkinsonia aculeata – CSIRO – $189,702
Biological control is seen as a key future component to management of Parkinsonia. Implementation of successful biological control will reduce the impact of existing parkinsonia weed problems and reduce weed spread to new areas within Australia. A critical step in development of biocontrol agents is the native range survey work which reveals the suite of potential agents. This project will build on agent survey work by selecting the high potential agents and testing their efficacy and safety in the field in Mexico and Argentina.
Seed banks of weed-invaded wetlands: implications for biodiversity and restoration – CSIRO – $41,551
Wetlands are threatened by invasive plant species and managers require technologies for reducing weed populations and facilitating recovery of native communities. Soil seed-banks can indicate the impacts of invasive species and the capacity of native communities to recover. The study will measure seed-banks of a northern Australian wetland. It will quantify the effects of invasive wetland grasses on the size and diversity of the seed-bank and measure the capacity of native wetland vegetation to recover.
Weed response to cyclones in the Wet Tropics rainforests: impacts and adaptation – CSIRO – $57,928
The destruction caused by Cyclone Larry (March 2006) provided ideal conditions for rapid recruitment and spread of invasive weeds in Queensland’s rainforests. Climate change scenarios predict an increasing frequency of intense cyclones in the tropics. Understanding the dynamics of weed invasion following cyclones and the long-term effects of weeds on forest composition and structure will be critical for implementing management to reduce future impacts. This project will ensure continuity of weed population monitoring initiated in 2006 to enable a better understanding of the medium-term impacts of post-cyclone weed recruitment, and develop management strategies for reducing spread in response to climate change.
Establishment of a National Weed Surveillance Mapping Portal – Christopher Auricht – $200,000
This project will integrate a number of existing information systems to deliver a National Weed Surveillance Mapping Portal. The portal will incorporate an upgraded version of the Weed Watcher Interface currently deployed by the Western Australia Department of Agriculture and Food, to enable a range of stakeholders to record observations of important weeds via an easy-to-use web mapping interface. The portal will be linked to a BioSIRT-compliant database to ensure a nationally consistent approach is applied to collecting weed observations.
Does clonality facilitate rapid invasion of the aquatic weed Sagittaria platyphylla? – CSIRO – $57,282
Sagittaria is an increasingly invasive aquatic weed in irrigation and natural river systems in the central Murray-Darling district. This project will build on current research seeking to understand the broad scale dispersal of Sagittaria associated with changing hydrological regimes by experimentally measuring the importance of clonal growth rates to fuel the invasion front. This will improve Sagittaria management and control by allowing for a more strategic use of current management tools.
Introduction of lacy-winged seed fly for Chrysanthemoides monilifera biological control – Victorian Department of Primary Industries – $23,187
The primary purpose of the project is to enhance biological control of C. monilifera in Australia by introducing M. magnipalpis from South Africa as a new biological control agent for boneseed and bitou bush). At present, there are no biological control agents in Australia that directly suppress boneseed seed production.
Maximising knowledge for adoption on recent weeds research – Land and Water Australia – $93,900
This project aims to maximise benefits from the knowledge generated during the Australian Government’s 2006-2008 weeds R&D program. A series of knowledge assimilation forums will bring together scientists, policy-makers and land managers to share the knowledge generated from research undertaken in 2006-2008 and to identify the preferred ways of integrating that knowledge into weeds management at a landscape scale.
Phytotoxins produced by Phomopsis spp. with potential herbicidal activity against Carthamus lanatus – EH Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation – $25,000
This project will complete the characterisation of toxins produced by species of Phomopsis isolated from saffron thistle (Carthamus lanatus) in Australia. The fungi have been shown to have strong biological control activity, and it thought that this is due, in part, to the production of phytotoxins. The characterisation of these toxins will assist in the selection of the most aggressive isolates and could be used as a source of new herbicidal compounds.
Management of Creeping lantana – Stage 2 – The University of Queensland - $31,169
This project will continue to assess plant competition with creeping Lantana. It has now been 10 years since the plots were first sown with various pasture and legume species in the competition trials. Plant competition is a dynamic process and changes occur over time in response to both biotic and abiotic factors (including climate). There have been protracted dry weather conditions since the plots were established in 1998. The research proposed will re-assess the competitive abilities of all the species sown in these plots that will inform updated recommendations for the most effective pasture grasses that are capable of most effectively competing with Creeping lantana.
Improved detection and eradication of Hieracium: experiments and 2nd generation dispersal models – The University of Melbourne – $53,065
Orange Hawkweed and King Devil Hawkweed are state prohibited emerging weeds that pose serious threats to Australian ecosystems and agriculture. Recent research identified that Hieracium seeds are killed by heat. This project will test the efficacy of controlled burns to kill both seeds and mature plants and expand existing seed viability and longevity studies.
Overcoming and avoiding metabolism based herbicide resistance in Lolium rigidum – University of Western Australia - $51,410
This project aims to avoid or overcome metabolism based resistance in Lolium rigidum by using known synergists that overcome metabolic resistance mechanism, for new herbicides being release on the Australia market.
Weed seed retention at crop maturity of major south-eastern Australian weed species – Birchip Cropping Group – $53,794
This project will assess the potential for mechanical systems that collect weed seeds during harvest to assist in the control of dominant weed species in southern Australian cropping systems. This will be achieved by monitoring the number of seeds of different species that are retained above harvest height.
Climate change impacts on agricultural weeds in Western Australia – Curtin University of Technology - $95,335
This project will identify and assess the impact of climate change on agricultural weeds in Western Australia, focusing on the Northern Agricultural Region. This project will build on the existing survey data by assessing the potential impact by using a weed risk assessment model. The five riskiest species will be modeled using CLIMEX software to predict potential distribution of species under future climate conditions.
Summer weeds – counting the costs for a climate changed future – Birchip Cropping Group – $70,893
By using water and nutrients that could otherwise be used by ensuing crops, summer weeds have a large negative impact on farm viability in southern Australian cropping zones. In the future, their importance will increase, as scenarios of climate change forecast a greater proportion of annual precipitation falling during summer. There is currently a huge gap in our understanding of the economics of summer weeds and their management. This project will create the simulation tools necessary to quantify costs and benefits of summer weed control, both historically and as an emerging threat under climate change. This will create a framework for targeted research and extension to mitigate their threat moving forward.
Identifying the basis of dual glyphosate and paraquat resistance in Lolium rigidum selected at reduced rates of glyphosate – The University of Western Australia – $39,470
Glyphosate is currently the most important herbicide in world agriculture for total weed control. Lolium rigidum (ryegrass) is a problematic weed in Australia. Recurrent selection with sub-optimal glyphosate dose on a susceptible ryegrass population can lead to glyphosate resistance. This project will investigate the resistance profile of this weed to other unrelated herbicide modes of action and the resistance mechanism to glyphosate and paraquat.
National bellyache bush (Jatropha gossypiifolia) best practice manual – Queensland Primary Industries and Fisheries – $67,216
This project will develop a National Best Practice Manual for bellyache bush. For the past seven years, several state, federal and territory agencies have worked together to better understand the ecology of bellyache bush, to develop integrated control strategies and to mass rear and release biological control agents. Whilst several scientific publications have been produced, the proposed manual would convert these scientific findings into practical information for use of stakeholder groups. The experience of land managers will also be incorporated through the inclusion of several case studies.
Host testing of the gorse pod moth, Cydia succedana, for the biological control of gorse in Australia – The University of Tasmania – $119,477
Gorse is a Weed of National Significance. Management of gorse involving biological control offers a long term strategy for its control, particularly in areas where it is widespread or inaccessible. The aim of this project is to conduct host specificity tests to confirm that a biological control agent, the gorse pod moth, is safe to release in Australia.
Estimation of investment required to achieve weed eradication – Queensland Primary Industries and Fisheries – $27,434
National cost-shared weed eradication programs have commenced and undergo periodic reviews without any estimates of program duration, and hence the amount of resources that would be required to achieve eradication. This project will utilise historical data from the branched broomrape and Siam weed eradication programs to build a bioeconomic model that will provide estimates of program duration/resources required to achieve weed eradication.
The impact of boneseed invasion on biodiversity – The University of Wollongong – $155,137
Boneseed (Chrysanthemoides monilifera ssp. monilifera) has invaded native vegetation in five states. It poses a threat to biodiversity forming monocultures and replacing native vegetation. This project aims to identify the suite of species most impacted by invasion of boneseed and determine if these species vary across the distribution of this weed in Australia. This will facilitate practitioners to undertake management that helps restore biodiversity following weed control.
Web-enabling the National Weed Incursion Toolkit for Coordinated weed management – Bureau of Rural Sciences – $148,173
The National Weed Incursion Plan has been developed to guide effective responses to incursions of potential weed species. To compliment this plan, a draft toolkit has been developed, which compiles the range of tools available to weed incursion response managers, from risk assessment to delimitation and reporting frameworks. This project aims to make this research accessible by developing the toolkit into a final website, which will assist land managers and decision makers to prevent new weed incursions and contain existing incursions more effectively.
22 Nov 2010