Sedge meeting a promising step forward

MEMBER for Hill Shane Knuth MP is pleased the fight against noxious weed Navua Sedge is starting to gain traction after facilitating a meeting in Parliament recently with State Agriculture Minister Mark Furner, the Malanda Beef Plan Group and representatives from the Tablelands Regional Council and Hinchinbrook Shire.

The weed has now spread as far south as the NSW border and is taking over farmland paddocks inhibiting grass growth, affecting feed for livestock, native animals and is also spreading along waterways and National Parks.

$250,000 in funding had already been secured through a previous campaign involving Mr Knuth, the Malanda Beef Plan Group and local councillors which helped secure funds for control measures lead by Biosecurity (BQ) principal entomologist Dr Kunjithapatham Dhileepan who undertook biological control research in Africa.

This produced positive results with key pathogens that only seem to attack Navua Sedge. However, much more funding is needed for further research and Mr Knuth feels the response from the meeting has been positive, “The reality is this is a very aggressive weed that is taking over prime agricultural land throughout the Tablelands and coastal Queensland,” he said.

“From the beginning, it was difficult to get the message across about how serious the problem is. This time we all felt the government is starting to acknowledge the enormity of the issue – there’s a long way to go, but I believe we are starting to make inroads.”

Malanda Beef Plan Group representative Rob Pagano said if successful, the biocontrol will have a positive impact not just for farmers but also the environment as it will help prevent reef run-off, “People don’t even realise what the weed is, yet it’s so prominent within North Queensland and spreading all the way to the NSW border – this information has come from biosecurity. It’s not palatable for animals, so they eat the other grasses down short, Navua Sedge then shades the palatable grasses and takes over.

“We feel we are better off than we were after meeting with the Minister. The Beef Group and the TRC have helped to fund Dr Dhileepan’s research and the State Government is prepared to put more toward continuing his work, and an application to the Federal Govt is underway,” Mr Pagano said.

“If successful the research by Dr Dhileepan will provide a biological method. The relief for farmers would be enormous. If this biocontrol is a winner it will also reduce run-off to the reef and help tackle the Navua Sedge spreading along rivers and National Parks.”

Hinchinbrook MP Nick Dametto said a workable solution needed to be found to combat Navua Sedge, which was “spreading like wildfire”.

“This weed is destroying everything in its path,” he said.

“We currently don’t have any chemical-based poisons that are 100 per cent effective and that’s why we need funding from both the Federal and State governments for continued research.

“Initially it was thought that navua sedge would only stick to the wet tropics but we are seeing it quickly spread into the dry north-west and southern cattle country which will be devastating to the industry if it takes hold.

“Sedge cannot be digested by livestock and although pastures may look green and full of grass, navua sedge has the potential to turn it into a desert.”

Nick Dametto MP