Managing Serrated Tussock in winter: VSTWP
Posted on 22 July, 2021 by Ivan
We recently received a media release from the Victorian Serrated Tussock Working Party (VSTWP) regarding how to identify and manage the invasive grass serrated tussock (Nassella trichotoma) in the winter months. It is a timely reminder to have an inspection of your property, keeping an eye out for new invasive species and making a treatment plan to implement prior to seeding in spring. Central Victoria is lucky to have only a handful of serrated tussock infestations, with known sites around Harcourt, Sutton Grange, Castlemaine and Golden Point. All of these sites are being managed, with very low numbers at each site.
Across Victoria, serrated tussock has now infested over 250,000 hectares of land, and caused great damage to agriculture and native grasslands. Serrated tussock can be very difficult to identify from other similar grasses in our region, making it less likely to be removed at the early stage of infestation. The VSTWP have developed a great identification factsheet and video, which can be viewed by clicking here. Please find the article below, courtesy of the VSTWP.
Winter is the time to inspect for tussock
Serrated tussock often strikes fear in landowners who have been battling it for years in southern Victoria. The spread of this invasive grass has been minimal in the Mount Alexander region to date, but there is no doubt that it is starting to immerge and spread around Harcourt, Castlemaine and Talbot regions. The climate in central Victoria is well suited to this weed of national significance, and there is no doubt it will invade the drier climates in our region if given the chance.
Now is a good time to inspect your property for serrated tussock, with increased plant visibility due to frost bleaching. In frost prone areas, the tussocks are bleached a golden yellow to white colour by frost during late autumn and winter. Serrated tussock has a white leaf base, while the tips of old leaves often have a bleached tip.
The change in colour makes the plants easier to spot in a paddock, making now a good time to do a survey of your land. The recent rains and autumn break in some parts of Victoria has been good for crops, but unfortunately, also good for the growth of serrated tussock. Controlling serrated tussock before the plant goes to seed is critical to prevent further spread, lost productivity and increased control requirements.
Serrated tussock (Nassella trichotoma) is a long-lived perennial that can invade poor soils and survive fire, drought and frost. It reduces the productivity of pasture and can create a fire hazard. Its fibre content is so high that stock are unable to digest it. Seeds are spread by the wind, machinery and also by water and animals. The seed remains viable in the soil for more than 10 years and can dominate if there is no competition from other pasture species.
Depending on the size of the infestation, plants can be removed manually using a hoe or spade, or spot sprayed using a registered herbicide. Small seedlings recently germinated will appear bright green until they are bleached by frost, and will be erect and stand out from the other grasses in a pasture. The Victorian Serrated Tussock Working Party (VSTWP) has a host of information on treatment options and case studies, including videos and information sheets that can be posted or emailed to landowners.
“We are asking landowners to conduct assessments of their properties before Spring, when the grass starts to flower. Serrated tussock flowerheads develop a distinctive purple colour as the seeds ripen in late spring and early summer. During winter you will be able to see the plants easily when they are bleached a lighter colour,” said VSTWP Chair, Lance Jennison.
The VSTWP has developed an online video and information sheets to help landowners identify the noxious weed, which can be viewed at www.serratedtussock.com.
“Serrated tussock is a costly weed to have on your property, especially when it becomes established,” Mr Jennison said. “It is best to check your property for new infestations and treat plants every season before seeding. A mature serrated tussock plant can produce thousands of seeds in a season, blowing up to 20 kilometres from the parent plant,” he said.