A mystery grass disease is threatening Queensland’s billion-dollar beef cattle industry.
The race is on for scientists to find a cure, or even just the cause, of a pasture disease as graziers watch their grass wither and die in the paddock.
The disease is spreading quickly across vast swathes of valuable beef grazing country killing native and introduced species including buffel, bluegrass and many more but it is not known if the disorder is caused by a virus, fungus or pest.
‘Dieback’, as it’s being called, is terrifying graziers such as John Baker from Middlemount who first noticed his grass yellowing a few months ago.
“It’s the be all and end all, without a healthy pasture you’ve got nothing really … that’s it,” he said.
Agronomist Ross Newman first detected the disease in Central Queensland four years ago.
But now it has been found as far south as Roma and as far north as the Atherton Tablelands with some landowners reporting 80 per cent losses.
Mr Newman is also seeing the impacts on his own property near Gracemere.
He said it was a cruel twist of fate for graziers to be seeing dead grass even though they had finally got some decent rain.
“The truth is you start the season out and you get a bit of rain, you expect your cattle to be knee high [in grass] and your cattle to be rolling fat,” he said.
“You see your pasture disappear before your eyes, that’s your livelihood, so you do panic.”
Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) has teamed up with the Queensland Government to try to find the cause of the dieback and hopefully a solution.
Project manager Doug McNicholl said MLA was working as quickly as it could but that it was hard when the extent of the problem was unknown.
“We have a team of 10 researchers working on the problem and a number of partnerships in place with research companies,” he said.
Until scientists have a solution, graziers are trying all manner of methods to control the problem including spraying, blade ploughing, ripping, applying fertilisers and replanting different pastures.
Mr Newman said it was all adding to the cost of the disease.
The ABC understands the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (QDAF) is also undertaking research into unexplained dieback.
QDAF was contacted for comment but declined at this stage.
Source – http://www.abc.net.au