Poowong Landcare Group members in their scary costumes with Nationals Member for Gippsland South, Danny O’Brian (centre) and Poowong President, Mark Walters (left).  Jo McLeay is a ragwort (second from left)

Put a stop to ragwort!

With the arrival of spring, Landcare is encouraging people to act now against the yellow flowering plant. All across South Gippsland we see their bright yellow flower-heads on roadsides and in the paddocks of bad land managers – the lazy and incompetent.

Ragwort – Senecio jacobaea – is a noxious, regionally controlled weed.  A weed is declared as regionally controlled in a catchment region if it (a) it occurs in the region; and (b) it is capable of spreading further in the region and should be stopped from doing so; and (c) to prevent its spread, continuing control measures are required. If you control, occupy or own land that has noxious weeds declared as regionally controlled then you are responsible for preventing their growth and spread.

Ragwort, what is it?

Ragwort is a perennial plant that lives up to its unfortunate name. Its native to Europe and a persistent pasture weed in high rainfall areas of Victoria.

Ragwort leaves and stems contain an alkaloid that is toxic to horses, cattle and sheep. The plant is toxic when both fresh and dry, including when fed in silage or hay.  When eaten by grazing animals, particularly horses, the plant causes severe liver damage and is often fatal. These toxins pass from the gut direct to the liver, where they destroy cells until there are too few left to carry out vital functions. Liver failure is then inevitable.

Ragwort grows best in weak open ground over areas where there is less competition. Sporadic plants growing in pastures competing with denser ground cover are not so common.

How do I control it?

Great that you ask! One way to keep on the good side of your neighbours is to control your ragwort. When the weed has colonised large areas, it is best treated with chemicals. Registered chemicals for the control of ragwort in Victoria include those with the brand names of Brushoff, Kamba M and *Grazon. If using chemicals, always be sure to read the chemical label and follow directions.

When do I control it?

Spraying can be done at any time of the year paying particular attention to the spring and summer period when the plant will be keen to rapidly move into its reproductive phase, producing flowers and then seed.

If the plant is flowering or sporadic across and area, pull the plants (remembering any part left in the soil will regrow) or collect the flower heads (wear gloves). Then place the material in a black plastic bag.

Pasture sowing and management- the ultimate objective!

Spray to control the existing ragwort population however keep in mind that there is almost certainly a large dormant seed population in the soil, often the soil is low in fertility, strongly acidic and in many places there is a high available aluminium and iron levels.

After the existing population is sprayed, assess the site from a machinery safety perspective. If the surface doesn’t need levelling then rather than cultivate, oversowing may be more effective.

Following this, lime will almost certainly be required along with fertiliser supplying phosphorous, potassium and sulphur. Stocking rates are another important consideration.

Is there any further advice or assistance available?

For a list of weed control contractors click here; or for more information visit our weed identification and control page click here.  You may be eligible for assistance with the cost of weed control, contact us on 5662 5759 or email sgln@landcare.net for more information.