Weeding out … Parthenium weed

2020 12 07  Media Release Image - Parthenium Weed.jpg

As we head into the warmer months, Council is calling on all community members to get to know our region’s unwanted (priority) weeds so we can understand how to play our part to protect our environment, help our farmers and support our community.

The impact of weeds on natural vegetation can be devastating and is estimated to cost the NSW economy about $1.8 billion annually (NSW Department of Industry, 2018).

Council’s ‘Weeding out’ campaign through to the end of the year aims to share information on our region’s priority weeks. This week we’re focusing on Parthenium as our weed of the week.

What is Parthenium weed?

Parthenium weed is a weed of national significance and classed as PROHIBITED MATTER in NSW. It is a fast-growing plant with small white flowers. It can cause allergic reactions in humans and is a serious agricultural weed.

Parthenium weed is native to the Caribbean, southern USA and Central America. It was introduced to central Queensland in the 1950’s in contaminated pasture seed from Texas USA. Parthenium weed does not have established populations in NSW but is widespread in central Queensland. Conditions are ideal for Parthenium weed growth and spread in most areas of NSW except for very arid or wet areas.

In NSW Parthenium weed has been found:

• on roadsides, particularly along the Newell Highway

• on farming properties in the North West and Central West

• in urban areas in southern Sydney

Why is Parthenium weed a problem?

Parthenium weed grows quickly. It out competes other plants by competing for nutrients and moisture and by releasing chemicals into the soil that inhibit growth. This weed also:

• causes human health problems

• is unpalatable to stock

• outcompetes degraded or drought affected pastures

• reduces carrying capacity

• causes livestock health problems

• competes with crop seedlings including sunflowers and sorghum

• reduces crop yields

• contaminates grain

• is a host for crop viruses

Impacts to human health

Parthenium weed can cause respiratory problems and severe dermatitis. Never touch the plant with bare hands and use a dust mask if working near the weed.People might not have an allergic reaction the first time they touch a plant, however, allergies can develop after a few exposures; not just to Parthenium weed but to related plants such as sunflowers.

Impact to Livestock health

Livestock do not usually eat Parthenium weed but if no other feed is available, they may eat large amounts. This can cause kidney damage in ruminants (cattle, sheep and goats). Young cattle are most susceptible to dying from parthenium poisoning. Animals may also have allergic reactions including dermatitis.

If livestock (especially sheep) eat Parthenium weed within one month of slaughter it can taint the flavour of meat. It can also taint milk.

What can you do?

Learn to identify Parthenium weed and report any sighting to Council on 1300 345 345.

Please do not attempt to treat or dispose of this weed yourself. Report this plant immediately if you see it anywhere in NSW by calling Council or the NSW DPI on the Biosecurity helpline on 1800 680 244. NSW DPI will lead an initial response for the treatment and disposal of the plant to stop it from spreading.

Prevention – cleaning vehicles and machinery

Compulsory inspections of harvesting machinery entering NSW from Queensland ensure that machinery is clean and reduces the risk of introducing Parthenium weed. Vehicles and equipment coming from infested areas of Queensland must be cleaned before coming into NSW.

Checking for plants

Check high-risk sites where Parthenium weed might establish. These are places with disturbed, degraded or bare soil such as:

• overgrazed, heavily-stocked areas

• stockyards and watering points

• along roadsides and fence lines

• neglected areas

• cropping paddocks recently harvested by contract harvesters

• areas where excavation or mineral exploration machinery has been working

Also check for Parthenium weed where:

• new soil or compost has been delivered

• hay, grain or bird seed has been fed to livestock (including chickens)

Be informed

• Download the free NSW WeedWise app for detailed information on how to identify and manage local priority weeds. https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/biosecurity/weeds

• Visit Council’s website to understand how we can help you with weeds management. https://www.snowymonaro.nsw.gov.au/140/Biosecurity-and-Weeds

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