Red witchweed roots. Picture: Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.
Red witchweed roots. Picture: Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Parasite alert: Prohibited plant detected in Mackay

Patrol teams are hunting for a foreign parasitic plant detected in Mackay that has the potential to cause billions of dollars in damage.

The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries’ biosecurity alert stated eradication teams were searching Mackay farms every eight to 10 days looking for red witchweed seedlings.

Red witchweed flowers. Picture: Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.
Red witchweed flowers. Picture: Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

“Native to tropical and semi-arid Africa, Arabia and Asia, red witchweed is a parasitic plant that grows attached to the roots of certain grasses,” the email alert stated.

“Hosts of red witchweed include commercially important grasses and summer cereals such as sorghum, corn (maize), rice and sugar cane.

“It can also be found growing on a wide range of tropical grasses common headlines and in pastures.”

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The DAF’s website stated the parasite caused about $7 billion of damage to African grain crops each year and was prohibited in Australia.

Red witchweed plant. Picture: Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.
Red witchweed plant. Picture: Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

The seeds can stay viable in the soil for up to 15 years and may contaminate other crop seeds and travel via machinery or vehicles.

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To report a suspected red witchweed plant, phone 13 25 23.


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