Controlling serrated tussock on a Sunbury hobby farm

  • Ivan Carter
  • VSTWP Extension Officer
  • 2016

Jamie and his family have recently built their dream home on a 20 acre plot of land to the west of Sunbury, adjacent to the Calder Freeway. The property contains fertile dark loam soils, lending itself to some productive small-scale farming. Jamie has revegetated the boundaries to create habitat and provide a barrier from wind, noise and hopefully the entry of wind-dispersed weeds.

Not being from the area, the family were initially unaware of the highly invasive weed serrated tussock. Serrated tussock is established in many areas in and around Sunbury, and the Calder Freeway is a known conduit for seed spread. Whilst building their house, Jamie noticed a few plants that he believed could be serrated tussock but was unsure on the finer points of identification.

To allay his fears, in the spring of 2015 Jamie contacted an Extension Officer from the Victorian Serrated Tussock Working Party (VSTWP) who was at the time working in the Gisborne area providing serrated tussock extension and education to landowners. Jamie took advantage of the free property assessment on offer and arranged a visit from the Extension Officer. During the consultation, Jamie and the VSTWP Extension Officer walked over the property, with Jamie pointing out the plants he thought may have been serrated tussock. Fortunately the suspect plants were identified by the Extension Officer as a native Juncas species, which to the untrained eye can easily be mistaken for serrated tussock.

The property assessment did however lead to the discovery of 30 mature serrated tussock plants in a paddock adjacent to the Freeway. This was a surprise to Jamie, as he had not noticed the plants before, and was concerned about their potential spread and impact on other areas of the property. The Extension Officer mapped the serrated tussock plants and provided an aerial map to Jamie indicating the extent of the infestation. In addition, the Extension Officer offered Jamie a property management plan which advised the immediate manual removal of the plants and replacement with perennials pasture species. The medium term plan will be to improve the pastures across the arable areas of the property, minimising further germinations of serrated tussock plants and providing a competitive defence against further infestations.

Longer term management of the property will involve monitoring and manual removal of plants every spring and autumn, and pasture improvement to establish a groundcover of desirable species. Jamie concluded that if the serrated tussock had not been identified and subsequently managed, there was potential for the property to be besieged by large quantities of seed, increasing the density of infestations, the seed bank and management commitment for years to come.

With the removal of all 30 mature plants and their seeds, the property is now at a stage where stock can be introduced and pasture re-sown. Jamie said “I had no idea our property contained serrated tussock, but now I can adequately identify the plant, so we will monitor in 2016 to evaluate our success in treatments”.