Ratty little pest could destroy our farming future

NASTY STUFF: Jim Elliot says the government has a lot to answer for over rat's tail grass. A meeting on the issue will be held in Gladstone.
NASTY STUFF: Jim Elliot says the government has a lot to answer for over rat's tail grass. A meeting on the issue will be held in Gladstone. Emily Pidgeon.

IT MAY look harmless, but a drought-tolerant variety of grass is causing mayhem for local graziers.

Farmer Jim Elliot owns several properties across the region, including one at Mt Larcom, and said 'rat's tail grass' had been causing him trouble for decades.

"It has the potential to significantly destroy the Queensland grazing industry," Mr Elliot said.

"It's a fiercely competitive grass."

To a naive eye, rat's tail grass can be mistaken for ordinary grass, but the hardy nature of the grass allows it to take over land in as little as 48 hours, constantly challenging land owners.


Jim Elliot (left) and Ross Rideout (right) own properties throughout the region where they tackle to eradicate Rats Tail Grass.
Jim Elliot (left) and Ross Rideout (right) own properties throughout the region where they tackle to eradicate Rats Tail Grass. Emily Pidgeon.

Although cattle generally avoided eating the grass if they had a choice, Mr Elliot said they were forced to eat it if there was nothing else around.

"It's tough grass and files down their teeth," he said.

Government-owned land, infested with the grass neighbours his property, along with that of grazier Ross Rideout.

Mr Rideout said the government had turned a blind eye to the issue.

"They've done as little as they could ... not looking after the land," Mr Rideout said.

Seeds from the grass get washed from the government property into their properties at Mt Larcom.

"They spread from the government land ... down as far as the reef islands," Mr Elliot said.

He said would have spent 1000 hours every year controlling his 500 acres, using one chemical to kill the grass.

"Man could work from daylight to dark and still wouldn't keep up with it," he said.

Mr Rideout said the government had done patchy work, with the problem costing millions to keep under control.


Jim Elliot owns properties throughout the region where he tackles to eradicate Rats Tail Grass.
Jim Elliot owns properties throughout the region where he tackles to eradicate Rats Tail Grass. Emily Pidgeon.

The State Government is holding a stakeholders meeting for landowners to discuss their concerns on April 27 in Gladstone.

The State Government's agriculture and environment committee will be reporting to parliament on the impacts on Queensland graziers.

Gladstone Region councillor Peter Masters said the meeting would determine if the grass has been controlled adequately.

"It will assess the responsibilities of local government bodies," he said.

Mr Elliot said completely eradicating the grass was nearly impossible.

"The government should have taken over when we started screaming," he said.

"It's facing every grazier in Queensland, that's why we keep fighting it."

Topics:  cattle environment farm government grazier rat tail grass

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