This week a joint announcement between the MLA and Federal Government has been made to invest $6 million into research to establish a management strategy for Pasture Dieback. Which is decimating pasture across Queensland grazing.

Mealybug

It is stated that a tiny mealybug is the likely culprit. Theebine graziers Stuart & Lynda Volmerhausen had their livelihood severely threatened 12 months ago. Under the impact of pasture dying “before their eyes”. I was called to the property to inspect degraded pasture and consider a possible management plan.

Inspection quickly revealed what appeared to be dead pasture across 200 + acres (80 ha) of prime grazing on the Volmerhausen property. Stuart was very concerned that this could eventually shut them down. What we did not find was any substantial sign of active mealybug. Even though the dieback was extending it’s grasp by the day. There was the odd very minor trace of white secretion common to MB infection in dense vegetative growth. But nothing which could be identified to confirm active mealybug.

The pasture was collapsing without the help or influence of mealybug.

There is no doubt in Stuarts conviction today that the mealybug is secondary to the real cause.

I have previously reported on the results of Stuarts work with TM Agricultural. Twelve months down the road from the initial application the results invoke real doubt about mealybug being the primary cause of dieback. Click here to view first report

The spread of dieback ceased virtually from the day the TM was applied. Within a short period, pasture was endeavouring to recover and by December it was obviously succeeding. Pastures had freshened up and were exhibiting good growth and grazing quality.

Untreated Paddock

It so happened that Stuart left one 12ha paddock untreated when he applied TM to 80 hectares in March/April 2018. Early in the new year Stuart was prompted to have a close look at that paddock. He confesses to have been stunned. The dieback infected areas in this paddock have been completely overtaken by wild cotton. The principal weed filling the void left by dieback. What had been prime “Star Grass” pasture was now totally void of grazing value. This paddock has since been treated with TM in March 2019.

Treated Paddock

Not more than 100 metres away, under the same conditions, TM treated Star Grass pasture is flourishing and exhibiting strong feed value, both in volume and quality. These paddocks have been heavily stocked and have held up exceptionally well. There is no sign of the original dieback symptoms which were so evident.

Stuart has commenced his 2019 application of TM and is extending the area covered with an upgrade of his spraying equipment. He has also applied TM by air in conjunction with herbicide on the side of a mountain too rough to spray by mechanical means. Previously dense and essential winter pasture was laid waste, completely overtaken by wild cotton. TM was applied at 500ml per hectare because of the high cost of the aerial application and the unlikely chance it could receive a second application.It will be interesting to monitor these two belated applications.

A visit early september confirms that an estimated 60% – 70% grassy ground cover has been re-established on the star grass flat and is surviving despite heavy frost and very dry conditions.

The mountain is even more surprising with the wild cotton taken out by the herbicide and a fresh flush of Green Panic re-established where the wild cotton had previously prevailed.

Stuart’s mum has again chimed in with an interesting observation. Stuart had sprayed a rough corner of a paddock where cattle seldom if ever grazed. Mrs Volley noted that the cattle are now repeatedly grazing on this area. Stuart is also convinced that the pasture is not so severely affected by the heavy frosts as might have been expected.

The Volmerhausen family have grazed this property for several decades. It was originally dairy, switching to beef several years back. Stuart’s dad passed away last year and his mum, still very active, puts in her days weed spraying & problem spotting across the home property. Mrs Volley is well known for her healthy pessimism when it comes to modern innovation. However Stuart reports her recent comment “I believe the pastures on the home property are the best they have ever looked”.

Brice Kaddatz
Macadamia & Hortcultural Services.
Gympie, QLD 4570
Mob 0438 861 198