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Beyond the Bale : December 2018
66 ON FARM Silverleaf nightshade is spread by sheep that eat and then deposit the weed’s mature berries during summer and autumn – so now is the perfect time to take a look at a new best practice manual that provides Australian farmers with guidance on controlling the weed and preventing its spread. The new 66-page best practice management manual is aimed at helping farmers combat silverleaf nightshade. BEST PRACTICE CONTROL OF SILVERLEAF NIGHTSHADE Silverleaf nightshade is a weed that grows during spring and summer, using up valuable moisture and reducing production in pasture and crop enterprises throughout the Australian wheat-sheep zone. It is a long-lived perennial plant with very deep, resilient roots. Spread is relatively slow but, once established, it is extremely difficult to eradicate. It is likely that most silverleaf nightshade spread has been by livestock, particularly sheep. First detected and reported in northern NSW in 1901, silverleaf nightshade has spread to most regions in the cropping areas of NSW, Victoria and SA. WA has a relatively small number of infested farms, but it continues to spread. Queensland also has some scattered populations. Despite its widespread distribution, there are vast areas of farming land where silverleaf nightshade has not been detected. Stopping its spread to clean land is a priority to minimise future losses. NEW MANUAL TO HELP FARMERS The newly released best practice manual is a collaboration between PIRSA and NSW DPI, with much of the information in it generated by research and extension projects funded by AWI, MLA, the South Australian Grains Industry Trust (SAGIT), the Murrumbidgee Land Care Group, and the Australian and Victorian governments. The authors, Dr Hanwen Wu (NSW DPI) and Dr John Heap (PIRSA), have been involved with silverleaf nightshade research and extension for decades. The collective experience, knowledge and research findings of the two have been combined to produce the most current and comprehensive best practice management information available, and woolgrowers are encouraged to take a look. The 66-page manual includes the weed’s biology and threat, integrated weed management, case studies and sources of further information. HOW IS THE WEED SPREAD? There is strong evidence that sheep are the most important vector for seed dispersal in Australia. Dr Wu says sheep eat mature berries, and viable seeds may then be deposited in dung for the next two to three weeks. “Sheep most commonly eat mature silverleaf nightshade berries during summer and autumn, when pasture reserves are very low. Sheep movements from an infested paddock to a clean paddock are therefore most risky during the mid-summer to early winter period. “New infestations of silverleaf nightshade typically increase slowly within paddocks that were previously clean, and there may be a lag phase of at least 5 to 10 years between silverleaf nightshade seed introduction and recognition of a developing problem. “It is important to note that clean paddocks and farms can be protected from invasion, even in heavily-infested districts, by careful management and good farm biosecurity practices.” Cross-bred sheep reportedly eat berries more readily than Merinos. WHAT IF MY PROPERTY IS AFFECTED? If a property is affected by silverleaf nightshade, control must be planned over at least a five to ten-year time frame. While designing a management plan can be a daunting task at first, Dr Wu says careful and logical thought will produce a plan that directs time and money to where it is most needed over the long journey. “Large, dense, established infestations attract immediate attention, but careful consideration of the situation may identify higher priorities. The two highest priorities should be to stop seed and fragment movement to clean areas, and to control isolated outlier patches of silverleaf nightshade. “Large dense infestations will still need to be managed, but the potential damage that can result from ignoring newly- established colonies dictates that they should take priority.” In paddocks where there are large infestations, the emphasis shifts to protecting crop and pasture productivity, which will incur extra ongoing costs (eg supplementary feeding, herbicide, fertiliser) to minimise yield losses. “However, it must be accepted that there are no suitable effective herbicide treatments that will quickly kill dense infestations,” Dr Wu added. Experience and research suggests that a ‘Dual Action’ approach is most suited to long-term control. Action One, in early summer, is aimed at stopping seeding, and Action Two is aimed at weakening the root system in late summer or autumn. MORE INFORMATION The Silverleaf Nightshade Australian Best Practice Management Manual 2018 is available at www.silverleafnightshade.org.au and at www.wool.com/weeds
In the Shops - March 2019