Surveillance is the key to be tussock free: Romsey, Victoria.

Written by Ivan Carter, VSTWP Extension Officer,

Joy Smith has been a landowner in the Romsey region for many decades and has a farm of nearly 100 acres in the fertile hills. She has cattle and sheep, and also has a few paddocks for hay and lucerne. The property is adjacent a public reserve, which is often frequented by contractors and machinery, as well as visiting families and dog walkers.

Unaware of serrated tussock until recently, Joy observed a few unusual tussock plants in the adjoining council reserve and watched them grow over a few seasons and remain green throughout summer. She thought they must have been the local native tussock and left them growing in the public land reserve, until she received a letter from the VSTWP.

The Victorian Serrated Tussock Working Party (VSTWP) held a serrated tussock information day in 2022 for their Romsey Stage 2 Target area, which Joy received an invite and contact details in the mail. She arranged an inspection with VSTWP Extension Officer in Spring 2022 and was interested to learn more about this invasive grass that she had noticed everywhere around Sunbury.

Joy walked over the property with the Extension Officer and no serrated tussock was found at the time. However, once Joy mentioned that the adjoining public reserve had a suspect grass tussock grass, it was discovered that serrated tussock had spread on the reserve, possibly by the mowing contractors. The infestation was less than a dozen plants and mostly mowed, but up against Joy’s fencing and had the potential to invade her clean paddocks over time.

The VSTWP worked with the landowner and the public land manager on removing the plants replacing them with some perennials native Poa species. The VSTWP mapped all of the infestations and provided them with an aerial map with all of the infestations visible. The plan for both land managers will be to conduct surveillance four times a year around the eixsiting infestations and along the fenceline, minimising further germinations of serrated tussock plants and providing a competitive break against further infestations.

Pictsdure1

(The green erect tufted plant had been mowed for a number of years)

The key message is that surveillance is vital to finding infestations of serrated tussock before they establish and spread through the landscape.  Once in paddocks, particularly non arable areas containing native pastures become dominated by serrated tussock, there are no straightforward, low cost solutions available. Joy concluded that if the serrated tussock was not identified and treated, the farmlett would have been swamped by seeding and dense infestations in the coming years, particularly given the fertile ground and dry autumn conditions.

Working together with public land managers is vital to biosecurity efforts on private land.