Feathertop Rhodes grass research with southern NSW focus

Author: | Date: 23 Jun 2020

image of Feathertop Rhodes grass
new GRDC research project developed to improve understanding of feathertop Rhodes grass ecology and behaviour in southern NSW farming systems should help equip growers with the tools to manage the problem weed. Photo Mark Congreve.

New research investigating management tools for feathertop Rhodes (FTR) grass in southern New South Wales should help guide growers and agronomists dealing with the problematic weed.

The innovative three-year-project will investigate weed ecology, fallow and in-crop management and will also examine whether livestock assists in controlling or contributes to the spread of FTR.

An initiative of the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), the collaborative project led by NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSWDPI) will involve the farming systems groups, Central West Farming Systems (CWFS) and FarmLink, and will work closely with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) who have undertaken significant FTR research in northern areas.

GRDC Crop Protection Manager – North, Vicki Green, said the project had been developed in response to grower needs for improved understanding of FTR behaviour and management specific to southern NSW farming systems.

“FTR is a tufted, annual grass, actively growing in the summer. It has been a major weed for more than 10 years in northern NSW, and central and southern Queensland. In recent years, FTR has also become a problem on roadsides and fence-lines in southern NSW,” Mrs Green said.

“The weed is now being reported in cropping paddocks, particularly in central west and southern parts of the state and its distribution is likely to have been exacerbated by wind dispersal during drought-affected summer months.

“FTR is a prolific seeder and its control is challenging due to the fact it is naturally tolerant to glyphosate and more recently it has evolved resistance to glyphosate.

“While considerable research has been done on the biology and management of FTR in Queensland and northern NSW, how the weed behaves in southern regions could be significantly different due to contrasting farming systems, soil types and climatic conditions.”

As an example, Mrs Green said northern research had found FTR was a surface germinator with limited emergence at the burial depth of five centimetres. However, she said early trials in southern NSW suggested seeds could emerge from 10cm depth, which may mean strategic cultivation used so effectively in northern NSW might not be applicable further south.

“This new research will answer a lot of questions about FTR and build on our knowledge and understanding of the weed in different landscapes and within different farming systems,” she said.

“One of the key differences between this work and other research we have done into FTR is the inclusion of livestock and pastures and how that influences the control or spread of the weed.

“So, this comprehensive look into FTR will be critical in evaluating and developing locally adapted, integrated weed management (IWM) strategies specifically suited to southern NSW.”

Mrs Green said many of the trials would be conducted in conjunction with FarmLink and CWFS, which would provide opportunity for field days where growers could engage with the research as it is progressing.

The ‘Facilitating adoption of integrated weed management strategies for FTR grass in southern NSW’ project will cover key research areas:

  • A benchmarking survey of the current distribution and level of infestation of FTR in southern NSW and investigation of the biology and ecology of southern populations compared with Queensland populations, particularly dormancy, emergence and persistence patterns related to burial depth and soil type.
  • FTR management in pastures incorporating chemical and grazing treatments and the fate of seed through both sheep and cattle, to understand the role of livestock in reducing or favouring spread of the weed.
  • Evaluation of residual and knockdown chemistry in fallows and crop situations including an evaluation of site-specific weed management options.

Growers who have paddocks with FTR issues can contact Hanwen Wu, principal research scientist with the NSW DPI for management options or to become involved in hosting a trial site. For more information contact 0401 686 218 or email hanwen.wu@dpi.nsw.gov.au.

Dr Wu will also present his early findings and well as outline the research he is doing into FTR at a 90 minute  GRDC Grains Research Update being delivered as part of an online series on August 20 at 9am. This presentation will also feature Richard Daniel from Northern Grain Alliance sharing how northern growers have managed this problem weed.

Head to FTR grass in southern NSW to register.

Contact details


Toni Somes, GRDC Communications Manager – North
0436 622 645

GRDC Project code: DAN1912-034RTX