CRCA 2007: Combating the Seeds of Terror

Be alert, but not alarmed. Weapon of potential mass destruction. A counter attack? The enemy in its underground bunkers? Pre-emptive strike. Coalition of the willing. Logistics. This is the war on weeds.

Weeds affect human health, agriculture and the environment. The estimated cost to the agricultural sector is more than $4 billion per year. The successful eradication of weeds involves knowledge of the life cycle of the weed species and the longevity of the seeds in the soil.

The seeds of some weed species survive for more than 100 years before germinating. Few of the existing laboratory-based life expectancy tests accurately simulate weed seeds in the field, and field trials are time-consuming and expensive as they need to be conducted for individual weed species.

Ms Rowena Long is a University of Queensland PhD student working on a research project funded by the Cooperative Research Centre for Australian Weed Management (Weeds CRC). [17 May 2007, CRCA Conference]

In three minutes, Long described her research to predict the life expectancy of weed seeds and the development of a laboratory test that quickly predicts natural aging of weed seeds in the field. This presentation was part of Showcasing CRC Early Career Scientists, the fourth plenary session of the Cooperative Research Centres Association Conference chaired by Professor Lyn Beazley, Chief Scientist of Western Australia.

[mp3@64kbps – 3.7Mb]
[ogg vorbis – 1.4Mb]

Long explained why it was important to be able to quickly identify the longevity of the seeds, the method employed in her research, the success of developing an ‘accelerated ageing’ test and its application, and future research pathways.

For three years, Long studied the chemistry of ageing and death of weed seeds, and has successfully developed a laboratory-based three-month ‘accelerated ageing’ test which estimates seed life expectancy. Ongoing research is required to verify in the field the predications based on the new test.

Being able to predict the seed life expectancy of a weed species will provide a greater degree of confidence in the planning of weed eradication programmes.

The CRC Weeds web site includes a plethora of publications of interest to students, teachers, researchers, farmers, and home gardeners. There is even a Weed Wipeout game to play. From the little I read, we can all play our part to prevent and control the spread of existing weeds, and look out for new weed species.


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