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National Hawkweed Meeting at Falls Creek

Wednesday 30 October, 2013

A meeting of the state government agencies leading the campaign against the highly invasive Hawkweed species is taking place at Falls Creek on 7 and 8 November. Three types of Hawkweed occur in Australia, two of which are only found in the Falls Creek area. The Victorian Government is working towards the eradication of all Hawkweeds from Victoria.

Scientists, land mangers and weed ecologists from Victoria, Tasmania and NSW will gather to share information and research developments on Hawkweed control. The group formed in 2011 to cooperate on Hawkweed control across the three states.

It’s not known how the three species of Hawkweeds in Australia arrived, but one may have been introduced into the Alps region on imported ski run equipment. Another is likely to have been imported as a garden plant. In New Zealand, where ten species occur, their rampant spread has destroyed millions of hectares of native vegetation and made grazing land virtually unusable. Hawkweeds release chemicals into the soil that inhibit the growth of other plants, and thus take over existing vegetation. They dramatically reduce pasture productivity, and destroy native animal habitats.

Parks Victoria’s Charlie Pascoe says Australian conditions suit this aggressive weed. “Hawkweeds can tolerate almost any growing condition; gravel or acidic soils, full sun, part shade, frost or snow, so they are very likely to be highly invasive both here in Victoria and in NSW and Tasmania.”

“There’s been good progress towards the eradication of Hawkweeds at Falls Creek, despite a recent setback with the discovery of a new species. Meeting at the start of the control season will allow us to share information about the two species not known from other states. We will be sharing information on strategies for surveillance and monitoring, improved detection techniques, including the use of sniffer dogs, and trials of different chemicals to maximise eradication. Opportunities for volunteers to assist with Hawkweed surveillance will also be discussed.”

Parks Victoria and Department of Environment and Primary Industries staff will make presentations at the meeting on the progress of the Falls Creek eradication program. There will also be a field trip to examine existing infestations and techniques being used to control them.

The Alps Hawkweed project has included an important research collaboration with the University of Melbourne on the most effective methods for Hawkweed control. This highly successful project enabled research scientists to work closely with park managers to inform practical on-ground management. It was recently awarded the University’s prestigious Staff Engagement Excellence Awards for 2013.

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