Scientists and farmers work together to wipe out African lovegrass

In the Snowy Monaro Regional Council area African Lovegrass is considered a noxious weed and the growth of the plant must be managed in a manner that continuously inhibits the ability of the plant to spread.

The plant must not be sold, propagated or knowingly distributed however a partnership between QUT, the NSW government and farmers could lead to the eventual eradication of the highly invasive African lovegrass which is threatening pastures and native grasslands Australia-wide.

African lovegrass

African lovegrass

What they discovered is that local knowledge is the key to a successful management approach.

The results of a research project by Associate Professor Jennifer Firn from QUT’s School of Earth, Environmental and Biological Sciences, Emma Ladouceur from Italy’s University of Pavia and Dr Josh Dorrough from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage,were published in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

Professor Firn said non-native plant species like African lovegrass was increasing dramatically.

“A native of southern Africa it is hardy and considered valuable for animal production and soil conservation but in Australia, where it is believed to have first arrived in the 1800s, it is considered by many landholders to be a pest species. 

“Landholders are in a unique position to witness species turnover in grasslands as well as learn from their own successes and failures in trying to manage invasive grasses.

“For this study, we worked closely with 15 landholders in the Bega region to examine the changing ecological characteristics of grassy woodlands and the impact on them following the arrival of the non-native African Lovegrass which has become an enormous problem for them.

“We then conducted a field study on seven landholder-generated hypotheses at 57 sites on the 15 Landholders properties, which validated many of their management perceptions,” she said.

Professor Firn said seeds for African lovegrass can germinate even up to 17 years of age and are dispersed by grazing animals, slashing, vehicles, water, fodder and wind.

“It thrives in drought conditions and paddocks with low ground cover are more susceptible to invasion.

“As well as overwhelming endangered native grasses, African lovegrass tussocks can grow so large they restrict the movements of livestock and become a hazard to farmers trying to navigate their properties,” she said.

“One theory we tested was whether mechanically slashing African lovegrass and then putting a large number of cattle into the paddock was effective as some farmers think. We found the opposite was true and it only made the lovegrass more abundant.

“Conversely, we discovered that an alternative control technique, “roller-wiping” or spot spraying with herbicide, was effective even with heavy infestations and cost efficient despite its poor reputation.”