The Skeleton Weed Program has again provided benefits for grains, seeds and hay industries, with the area of the Wheatbelt infested by weed being significantly reduced over the past year.
This key finding was published in the skeleton weed annual report released to growers by the Grains, Seeds and Hay Industry Funding Scheme Management Committee that oversees the program.
Chairman of the scheme, Barry Large, said the annual report demonstrated a number of ways in which the program had been effective over the past year against parameters including the area and number of properties infested, surveillance and grower support.
“There has been a skeleton weed program in WA for the past 37 years, but the program has just completed its fourth year under the Biosecurity and Agriculture Management Act 2007,” Mr Large said.
“Program staff contributed to efforts in almost 50 shires across the Wheatbelt, complementing the work of growers and Local Action Groups (LAG), of which five were funded by the program.
“The assistance provided by LAGs to landholders has been invaluable, particularly in the three heavily-infested areas of the Yilgarn, Narembeen and Lakes districts.
“Over the past year, there has been a significant decrease in the area known to be infested with skeleton weed, down from 2,518 hectares in 2012-13 to 1,440 hectares.
“Most shires with known infestations recorded a decrease in the infested area, with major reductions recorded in the Avon, Merredin and Yilgarn.”
“Another promising result was a decrease in the number of new finds over the past year.
“What is more, contractors searched a much higher percentage of the infested area (57%) compared to last season (32%).”
Mr Large said, during the year the Industry Management Committee surveyed contributors to the scheme to determine their views on the use of industry funds for skeleton weed.
The result was overwhelming support for the program, reflecting the strong interest of the WA industry in tackling the issue of skeleton weed.
“Plans for 2014-15 include compliance being prioritised – the employment of two compliance officers will help ensure landholders meet their skeleton weed management obligations,” Mr Large said.
“In addition, a joint research project between the program and the University of Western Australia will be undertaken with a focus on modelling skeleton weed distribution to enable better predictions of future spread.
“This knowledge will allow us to better target surveillance to those areas where the weed is most likely to spread.”
“As we move into the fifth year of the Skeleton Weed Program overseen by Grains, Seed and Hay Industry Funding Scheme Management Committee, I am confident of continued positive outcomes for industry.”
The Skeleton Weed Program annual report can be found on the department website agric.wa.gov.au/n/3679