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Weeds linked to region's poor land

WEEDING PROBLEMS: Pastures at 221 sites across the Mackay Whitsunday region were surveyed last year with results showing links between weed types and land conditions.
WEEDING PROBLEMS: Pastures at 221 sites across the Mackay Whitsunday region were surveyed last year with results showing links between weed types and land conditions. Jupiterimages

TWO surveys in the Mackay Whitsunday region have turned a spotlight on the condition of pasture on grazing properties.

Conducted in 2011 and recently reviewed, the surveys found while the region supported high levels of ground cover, weeds including lantana and giant rat's tail grass were a significant challenge for the grazing industry.

Funded by Reef Catchments, scientists from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) surveyed pastures at 221 sites across the Mackay Whitsunday region in January 2011 and October 2011.

The surveys assessed grazing land condition in the four major land types-alluvial flats and plains, eucalypt hills and ranges, coastal eucalypt forests and coastal tea tree plains - along the O'Connell River, Pioneer River, Proserpine River and Plane River catchments.

Grazing land condition assessment used several key indicators such as ground cover, pasture type, erosion, and weeds.

A key finding of this study was that in the Mackay Whitsunday Region, poor land condition was usually indicated by the type and number of weeds in the pasture.

Another key finding of the study was that the more productive alluvial flats were generally in better condition than the less productive eucalypt hills and ranges.

In addition to on-ground assessments, 10 years of satellite-measured ground cover data on 670 regional sites was analysed.

While the data showed that over the past decade the Mackay Whitsunday region pastures generally had high levels of cover, the Proserpine River catchment had the lowest levels of ground cover of the four major catchments.

Dr Terry Beutel, one of the DAFF scientists who produced the report, said the ground cover data was a valuable complement to on-ground survey work because it gave another perspective on changes in grazing land.

"It helps us to interpret what we see on the ground at a regional level," Dr Beutel said.

The grazing land surveys will continue, with the next assessment due in March 2013.

The information will be used by Reef Catchments to measure regional progress towards land condition targets, and to help set priorities for future programs.

Detailed results will be presented at the Reef Rescue Grazing forum in March 2013.

Topics:  reef catchments weeds