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Australian first mesquite bioherbicide trial underway at Broken Hill

In an Australian first, an innovative trial has begun at Broken Hill testing the use of fungal isolates as potential bioherbicides, to treat mesquite (Prosopis spp), one of the western regions most aggressive weeds.

This is the first time a fungal based biological control has been trialled on mesquite within Australia.

Mesquite is an exotic prickly woody weed that negatively impacts both the environmental and commercial value of grazing land. Mesquitechokes out native vegetation and forms thickets that impede the movement of livestock.

Local Land Services Western Region has partnered with the University of Queensland to undertake the trial at a site north of Broken Hill, where mesquite plants have been inoculated with a range of fungal isolates.

Senior Land Services Officer, Mitch Plumbe, has been working withDr Victor Galeafrom theUniversity of Queenslandto establish the trial, and is excited about the prospect of a new fungal bioherbicide.

“It is very exciting to think we may be able to add a biological agent to the toolbox for controlling mesquite, as current control programs are very reliant on chemical treatments,” said Mitch.

“While biological agents have been trialled in the past, there has been only minimal success, particularly with mesquite in western NSW.”

“A bioherbicide such as this gives the possibility of a control method that not only kills treated plants, but spreads within the broader thicket and suppresses seedling establishment.”

Preliminary work with seedlings in the laboratory has found that a number of the fungal isolates can be effective in suppressing plant establishment, however the trial at Broken Hill will help determine effectiveness on mature plants in the field.

“The trial site will be re-visited at 3 to 6 monthly intervals over the next year to determine the colonisation success of each isolate, and to identify evidence of plant mortality and potential spread into untreated plants,” said Mitch.

“This trial builds on work by Dr Victor Galea and Bioherbicides Australia in their successful development of a similar product for the treatment of parkinsonia.”

“As the density of mesquite infestations in the Western region is not as severe as in some other areas, we believe NSW is well placed to successfully control the weed through long term strategic management.”

For more information about the Mesquite Bioherbicide Trial, contact Mitch Plumbe on: 08 8082 5204

or email:mitchell.plumbe@lls.nsw.gov.au

Media contact: Meg Strang for Local Land Services Western Region - 0429 340 600.

Mitchell Plumbe

Mitchell Plumbe drills a hole in a mesquite stem, ready to insert a fungal isolate capsule as part of a new bioherbicide trial at Broken Hill.