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Department of Primary Industries:
Gorse Is A Weed Of National Significance

The Federal Government has identified the weed GORSE (also known as FURZE) Ulex europaeus, as a Weed of National Significance.

By Department of Primary Industries - 2nd April 2003 - Back to News

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The Federal Government has identified the weed GORSE (also known as FURZE) Ulex europaeus, as a Weed of National Significance. As such, the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) has been charged with the task of ensuring that Gorse is the subject of a Statewide focus. Enforcement provisions of the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994 and the use of incentives will ensure that all landholders meet a statewide standard in the treatment of Gorse.

This means that in the West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority area, all known sites of Gorse are to be inspected and treated.

In the West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority (WGCMA) area, there are approximately 130 known sites recorded on the Departmentís Integrated Pest Management System. These sites will all be inspected during the months March to May 2003 by DPI Catchment Management Officers.

Gorse is also identified in various Local Area Weed Plans across the WGCMA area, as a Regionally Prohibited Weed. This means that landholders in those areas where Gorse is identified as such, must eradicate or control the weed on their land.

Methods of control are by physical / mechanical removal, or chemical control. In both cases, the dead plants are heaped and burnt, and any regrowth dealt with by cultivation, heavy grazing with sheep, or spraying with herbicide. (Any chemical used must be registered for use on Gorse (Furze). Read and heed the label.)

Many West Gippsland landholders have been supplied with an information pack to assist them in the eradication of this weed. If you suspect that you have Gorse on your property, or would like further information, please contact your nearest Department of Primary Industries office or the Customer Service Centre on 136186.


"Are large bare areas of pasture appearing in front of your eyes?" asks Frank Mickan, Pasture and Fodder Conservation Specialist, DPI Ellinbank. Then, the culprits are probably black headed cockchafer grubs (actually their larvae) which have become active after our initial autumn rains. Another culprit, although pasture damage may not be so obvious initially, are the red headed cockchafers.

Three tell tale signs of blackheaded cockchafer damage are:

∑ Small mounds of dirt surrounding little tunnels on the ground surface.

∑ Bare areas in recently germinated sub clover and ryegrass.

∑ Freshly moved soil due to birds looking for larvae.

The blackheaded cockchafer grub is creamy grey in colour with a black head. Other cockchafer grubs have similar body colouring but will have yellow or red heads. The grub lives in the soil in this form until the early autumn rains soften the ground and encourages pasture growth. Over autumn and early winter they grow through three life stages or instars, and continue to consume pasture. Towards the end of the third stage their bodies become a creamier colour. They tunnel about 150 millimetres into the ground. The beetles, which are brown Ė black, emerge and fly in January-February and can fly long distances in summer to lay their eggs. These are the beetles you will have noticed flying into your windows when the lights were on.

The grub comes to the surface, in response to rains and heavy dews, to feed on the pasture overnight. They then munch on it in their tunnels throughout the day.

To check for cockchafers, dig into the soil in the unaffected pastures near where areas have become bare. If two or more grubs per spadeful of soil is regularly found, then spraying is recommended - particularly if large areas of pastures are being bared out. Dig over several positions and paddocks. Donít wait for large areas of dead pasture to show up before instigating control methods.

Several chemicals are registered for the control of the blackheaded cockchafer grub and have varying withholding periods. Contact your local chemical supplier and please read the entire label since many changes have occurred over recent years concerning the instructions and warnings of various chemicals. There may be legal implications for you to consider.

The ideal time to spray is just prior to rain or dew is expected, but the pasture must have enough time to dry out to prevent the spray being washed off the plants. Predicting the next shower can be difficult so the next best option is to spray soon after rain, once again, making sure the chemical does not run off the foliage. Applying chemicals in July/August will be too late because they will be further advanced in their lifecycle, and will have stopped feeding.

Large areas of bared out pasture may need oversowing once the grubs have been controlled. Alternatively, these areas may need to be oversown in spring, or the following autumn, to prevent flatweed, capeweed etc from claiming the bare ground.


Tunnel erosion is an extremely common form of soil erosion across Gippsland and affects many properties.

Michael Dortmans, Program Leader for the DPI Sustainable Agriculture and Land Management Program in West Gippsland, said that tunnel erosion is responsible for large losses of soil and nutrients from farms leading to increased sediment input into streams, dams and lakes and increased incidence of blue green algae and reduced water quality.

"They add to the danger of farming in the hills, with the weight of machinery enough to unexpectedly collapse tunnels. Stock losses can also be caused by animals falling into the holes and being unable to get out," Mr Dortmans said.

"Tunnels often start as a result of concentrated water flows along drainage lines, rabbit warrens, old tree root lines or from road culverts."

The first evidence of tunnel erosion is often a small area of silt around cracks or holes on the lower slopes, and the appearance of depressions along drainage lines. Tunnels deepen and widen until the roof collapses. If the problem is not treated, the tunnels will become gullies.

Tunnel erosion is the removal of sub-surface soil by water, causing tunnels to form. Many soils in the hills have an unstable sub-surface clay layer which when wet, can turn to liquid and flow out of the soil profile further down the hill.

Mr Dortmans said that simply fencing the area and replanting with suitable native species could rehabilitate less severe sites. The vegetation will dry out the site, while the roots will help to stabilise the area. This is also a much cheaper option than calling in the bulldozer.

"Assistance through Landcare or other funding sources may be available for this type of work," he said.

"For more severe tunnel erosion the best treatment is to deep rip the area and re-consolidate the soil in autumn, using a heavy bulldozer. This is followed by fencing and replanting the area with native vegetation or resowing of the site with deep rooted pasture species. Where possible water flows should be diverted from the area or measures taken to break up concentrated water flows."

Mr Dortmans reminded farmers that the practice of filling in tunnels and gullies with farm refuse was not a good idea, as it could lead to contamination of water supplies and may cause worse erosion as water flows divert around these objects.

If you need help to plan out your repair options or advice with other erosion problems on your property please contact Michael Dortmans at DPI Leongatha on 56629900.


Phosphorus fertilisers have traditionally been spread in Gippsland in the autumn, as the heavy spreading trucks donít damage dry paddocks at this time of year. Applying nutrients in autumn will also maximise autumn and winter growth when feed is at a premium.

Research indicates that there is little if any loss in pasture production if phosphorus fertilisers are applied once a year compared to multiple applications. This is because most of the phosphorus present in soil is tightly held and is not readily lost between once-yearly applications.

Recent research shows that annual phosphorus fertiliser application in the autumn is preferable from an environmental perspective as well. This is because the phosphorus in the fertiliser granules is carried into the relatively dry soil by morning dews and autumn rains, to be taken up and used by the growing pasture. This leaching mechanism is so effective that a couple of weeks exposure to the weather leaves virtually no phosphorus in the granules.

On irrigated farms, autumn is also an excellent time to apply phosphorus fertilisers as the irrigation interval is long and it is easier to apply fertiliser to relatively dry paddocks. After allowing time for the nutrients to leach into the soil, the next irrigation can then be carried out without risking major phosphorus losses.

Spreading fertilisers in the winter and spring on any farm is riskier as the soil is more likely to be wet and any heavy rainfall will inevitably take the fertiliser off the farm and into creeks and rivers, causing a loss to the farmer and the environment.


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