Buffel grass

What is buffel grass?

Buffel grass, or mamu tjanpi/tjanpi kura (devil grass/bad grass) is an introduced perennial tussock grass species that has emerged as a significant threat to the culture and safety of remote communities in the region. Originally from southern Asia and eastern Africa, buffel grass was deliberately introduced into the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in the 1980s to reduce dust around settlements.  Buffel grass is now widely distributed across the northern areas of the Alinytjara Wilurara (AW) region, in particular the APY Lands, where dense infestations are causing considerable social, environmental and safety threats. Infestations have also been identified in several localities in the Maralinga Tjarutja (MT) Lands and southern parts of the region.

Buffel grass is widely recognised as one of the most serious environmental threats to the range lands of Australia. It is very hardy and capable of destroying Australian ecosystems and threatening many plant and animal species with extinction. It invades landscapes rapidly, competes against native grasses and shrubs and threatens woodlands, communities and infrastructure with dangerous fires. Heavy infestations also prevent traditional hunting, foraging and cultural activities.

What is being done?

The South Australian Buffel Grass Strategic Plan has identified the need for two approaches to buffel grass management in the region:

  • APY Lands – targeted management of key sites
  • Maralinga Lands, Nullarbor and Yellabinna – destroy infestations.

A buffel grass control program has been established in the southern part of the AW region, with a particular focus on the Oak Valley community, the Eyre Highway and the railway line from Ooldea to Malbooma.

Control is undertaken using a variety of techniques, including applying herbicide, manual removal and burning with follow-up treatment.

What has been achieved?

Since 2008, Natural Resources AW have worked with stakeholders, including the Oak Valley community, Natural Resources Eyre Peninsula and the Department of Infrastructure, Planning, Transport, Energy and Infrastructure, to successfully eradicate two buffel grass sites and contain or reduce all other known sites in the southern two-thirds of the AW region. The railway line continues to pose challenges due to the spread of seed caused by trains coming from the east.

A buffel grass operational strategy has been prepared for the region to ensure a strategic approach to control is undertaken. This strategy also recognises the need for a collaborative effort in achieving the aim of eradication and control of the species.

Natural Resources AW continues to monitor outbreaks of buffel grass to gain more information about how to control it.


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