Surveys reveal Qld pasture dieback insights

14 December 2017

Investigative works are continuing in an attempt to pinpoint the cause of pasture dieback across parts of northern and central Queensland after the completion of sampling and surveying activities on affected properties.
 
Earlier this year Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) launched a broad action plan to map, identify and address pasture dieback across central Queensland in response to increasing producer concern.
 
Under the approach, MLA has assembled a cross-disciplinary team of researchers and technical experts, with six commercial companies (including Applied Horticulture Research and Hortus Technical Services Pty Ltd) and three research organisations (QDAF, CSU, NSW DPI).
 
MLA has appointed technical officers, coordinated by Greg Palmer, to consult directly with landholders and collect soil, plant and other samples on properties where dieback is occurring.
 
MLA General Manager – Research, Development & Innovation, Sean Starling, said MLA currently had:

  • 86 producers in the MLA “dieback” database who were receiving regular updates
  • 52 producers who have registered their properties and now have access to the FarmMap4D satellite mapping service of their properties
  • Soil and plant samples collected and analysed from over 28 properties.

Mr Starling said the surveys being undertaken will assist in identifying the cause of pasture dieback – with results revealing an average of about 60% of each survey respondent's property area is being impacted by dieback.
 
“The surveys also found that dieback is not restricted to any particular country type. This was reflected in what the survey respondents told us in terms of the presence or absence of dieback being highly variable on a wide range of soil types and environmental conditions,” Mr Starling said.
 
Mr Starling said there were no uncovered links between dieback and pasture nutrition.

“The typical description about how the dieback affects plants was broadly similar for all landholders surveyed, who explained that plants first turned yellow and then developed reddish tips before going a grey/black colour,” Mr Starling said.
 
“These similar symptoms suggest it is the same phenomenon occurring for each of these landholders.
 
“Survey results also found landholders were experiencing dieback on multiple pasture species and incidence was occurring randomly across paddocks.”

Sampling has occurred between Rockhampton and Biggenden and the samples are being examined for virus and bacteria diagnosis.
 
Mr Starling said segments are also being cultured in the laboratory for fungi studies using Koch’s Postulate practices (see attached diagram). This involves attempting to replicate the disease and cause in a controlled environment to better understand what it is and establish effective control measures
 
At the same time, MLA-supported trials are about to start investigating a range of intervention strategies with potential to be used by affected growers to manage dieback. These tactics could include burning, slashing, grazing management, application of fungicide and cultivation.
 
Trials of alternative grass species that may be more resistant to dieback are also planned.
 
Producers affected by dieback can attend forums initiated by AgForce Queensland at Bundaberg on 20 December, Biloela on 21 December and Emerald on 22 December, with registrations via the AgForce Events page at http://bit.ly/2q08WuL
 
MLA is also encouraging affected property owners to continue to instigate their own investigative works on-farm, as well as continuing to work with MLA.  There is also the potential for collaborative funding assistance via MLA to undertake R&D activities in partnership with producers.
 
Any producer wanting to discuss collaborative opportunities with MLA or who suspect they have pasture dieback should get in contact with MLA through Sean Starling at: sstarling@mla.com.au

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