Media releases

Call To Arms In The Fight Against Giant Rats Tail

Gympie Regional Council is taking a collaborative approach in its attempt to manage the wide-scale spread of Giant Rats Tail grass throughout the region and is calling on local property owners to report sightings of endemic pathogens that could be used in the weed’s biological control.

Council is particularly keen to know of any incidents in the region where naturalised South African Giant Rats Tail leaf smut (Ustilago sporoboli-indici) is infecting the shoots of Giants Rats Tail (GRT) grass.

Research has shown that the smut renders the GRT plant almost sterile. The leaf smut has been found in several Queensland regional areas and has the potential to be used in the weed’s biological control.

Gympie Regional Council’s environment portfolio holder, Cr Jess Milne, said that this research aims to improve our local farmers’ productivity and profitability.

“We want to investigate the potential of this naturalised leaf smut to control weedy Sporobolus grasses, such as Giants Rats Tail,” Cr Milne said.

“If successful, this could have an enormous benefit on the productivity and profitability of our region’s agricultural land with a reduced reliance on pesticides and other weed management approaches.”

Field surveys of endemic pathogens – which is just a fancy way of saying locally-found fungus – have also been undertaken with almost 60 different types of fungi having been prioritised as potential bio-controls for GRT.

Testing of five of these new pathogens is very encouraging as they are damaging and, in some cases, killing Giant Rats Tail seedlings, with one species directly affecting the root system.

To support this work, Council is asking landholders to let Council know of any sightings of leaf smut on Giant Rats Tail plants.

“If you see any incidents of fungus – especially leaf smut – on GRT grass, please take a photo and email it to environment@gympie.qld.gov.au along with the suburb in which it was seen and a contact phone number,” said Cr Milne.