Skeleton weed program in doubt

Jo FulwoodThe West Australian

A lack of grower responses to an online survey may mean the skeleton weed control program is not adequately funded in coming years.

So far, only 200 growers have responded to the survey, meaning results may not be considered statistically valid.

Department of Agriculture and Food WA Grains, Seeds and Hay Industry Funding Scheme committee spokesman Barry Large said in order to maintain the current level of skeleton weed operations, the contribution rate would need to increase to 40 cents per tonne of grain and seed sold and 20c/t of hay sold.

Mr Large said if there was not a bigger response from growers the status quo would remain.

The existing scheme sees producers pay a 30c contribution on the first sale of every tonne of grain and seed, and 15c on the first sale of every tonne of hay to fund programs to control skeleton weed and eradicate bedstraw.

"Are the growers happy for us to increase the levy and to run a Rolls Royce-type program, or are growers not bothered at all? I need the guidance from growers so we can do what they want," he said.

Mr Large said if the program was not adequately funded into the future, the responsibility to control skeleton weed outbreaks would be placed on individual growers.

Skeleton weed is an invasive plant that is a strong competitor to cereal crops and causes significant problems during harvest.

Since 2001, the number of known infested properties has grown from 620 to 935.

The total infested is approximately 2000 hectares.

Mr Large said the weed was more prevalent in the eastern Wheatbelt and without the skeleton weed program in place, the affected area would have increased substantially.

Shire of Yilgarn president Romolo Patroni urged growers to respond to the survey. He said the Shire had sent reminder letters to local farmers to encourage a greater response.

While Mr Patroni supported the continuation of the program, he was critical at the lack of funding being directed at the problem in the Yilgarn and Narembeen shires.

"In these two shires, where skeleton weed is most prolific, instead of continuing with the program, the department seems to have virtually walked away from it," Mr Patroni said.

"This is reflective of the wider philosophy of DAFWA about its long-term view of the eastern Wheatbelt."

Mr Patroni said the Yilgarn Shire, and farmers in the district, had committed extensive funds to carry out winter spraying programs the Government no longer funded.

"However, we do still have the benefit of the contractor coming in and searching during harvest under the skeleton weed program," he said.

"Generally those of us who believe we can still eradicate skeleton weed in the future would recognise the need for an increase in funding so the department can maintain a meaningful program."

Mr Large said growers voted strongly in favour of continuing the program in 2008.

"So far we've only had 200 responses, which is disappointing," he said. "We will use the results of the survey once we reach 10 per cent, but we will also be talking with the State farming organisations so that we can give the minister good guidance on which way we should be going."

Producers of grain, seed and hay are encouraged to have their say on the future of the program by completing an online survey available at

The survey is open until close of business on Friday next week.

Get the latest news from in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails