News & Media

Albany boost for weed science

Released on

Released on:
Wednesday, 26. June 2013 - 12:00

A significant contribution to weed science research in Western Australia has been made by the Department of Agriculture and Food’s Albany-based biosecurity officer Jennifer Westwood during work on her Master’s degree.

Ms Westwood’s research was supervised by Dr Christopher Preston of Adelaide University and department senior research scientist John Moore.

Mr Moore said Ms Westwood had produced ground-breaking work on controlling dormant seeds in the soil through the use of smoke water, chemical drenches and microwaves.

“For declared plants like gorse, seeds may remain in the soil for many decades,” Mr Moore said. “This has thwarted previous eradication efforts. Jennifer’s research has given new hope that these intractable species won’t keep returning from persistent seed banks in the soil.”

Ms Westwood said her project determined if smoke water, herbicides and microwaves affected seed germination and viability sufficiently to control the seed banks of problem weeds such as gorse, ryegrass, false yellow head and invasive wattles.

“The smoke water and microwave treatments proved to be useful in either killing the seed or stimulating germination depending on the strength of the treatment regime resulting in useful strategies to control seeds in the soil,” she said.

“Chemical treatments reduced the germination of all of the species trialled. This shows that chemical control of the parent plant may provide effective control for the next generation of weeds.”

Mr Moore said there was still a lot of work to do, but Ms Westwood’s achievement had provided a great start and had already led to collaboration with the University of Melbourne investigating microwaves in soil.

Ms Westwood graduated with her Masters in Plant Biosecurity this year through Murdoch University and was supported by the department. The program of post-graduate study was developed by the Plant Biosecurity CRC to train the next generation of biosecurity experts. It is delivered by a consortium of five leading Australian universities.

Her work currently with the department focuses on biosecurity issues around livestock and invasive plant species.

Ms Westwood follows in the footsteps of her father, David Westwood, who was a stock inspector with the department for 34 years.

“Dad had a passion for the environment, and that led me into agriculture.  I enjoy working in the Albany area.  Having grown up here, I understand the farming systems, the environment and the people. It's a special place to me,” Ms Westwood said.


Media contacts: Jodie Thomson, media liaison      +61 (0)8 9368 3937