Skeleton Weed Program

Page last updated: Tuesday, 5 December 2023 - 1:48pm

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The Skeleton Weed Program is a coordinated approach to managing skeleton weed in Western Australia.

Background and funding

The first report of skeleton weed in Australia occurred near Marrar in New South Wales in 1917. Although details are unknown, it most likely entered as seed with vine stocks, in animal fodder or bedding from Southern Europe. It spread throughout the south-eastern Australian wheatbelt during the 1920s to 1940s, dramatically reducing yields and proving difficult to control. Over time, three distinctive forms emerged, a narrow-leaf (most common), an intermediate-leaf and a broad-leaf form, distinguishable by the basal rosette leaf shapes.
The first skeleton weed detection in Western Australia (WA) occurred at Ballidu in 1963. Following the discovery of several large infestations in the Narembeen shire in 1973, the Skeleton Weed (Eradication Fund) Act 1974 was passed by Parliament to enable grain producers to self-fund ongoing eradication efforts via a levy on grain producers. This arrangement remains in place, but now operates under the Biosecurity and Agriculture Management Act 2007. The levy is reviewed annually and supports both the Skeleton Weed Program and Three-horned bedstraw (Galium tricornutum Dandy) Program. (Cook DC. Benefit-cost analysis of skeleton weed (Chondrilla juncea) management in Western Australia. Weed Biol. Manag. 2021;1–11.
The program is delivered by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) under a service delivery arrangement with the Grains, Seeds and Hay Industry Management Committee. The Committee acts under the Biosecurity and Agriculture Management Industry Funding Schemes (Grains) Regulations 2010 to manage prioritised pests affecting the grains industry. The Grains, Seeds and Hay Industry Management Committee is funded through contributions raised on the sale of grain, seed and hay.
Services provided by the program are only available to landholders who contribute to the Grains Industry Funding Scheme through the sale of grain, seed or hay. Landholders not under the scheme but who have skeleton weed on their properties are still required to meet their obligations under the program but at their own cost. 

Program strategies

  • Improve landholders’ ability to find and eradicate skeleton weed.
  • Increase landholders’ awareness of skeleton weed as a highly undesirable weed.
  • Widely publicise descriptions and pictures of skeleton weed to help landholders identify infestations.
  • Inform landholders about the most up-to-date techniques available for the management and eradication of skeleton weed.
  • Provide assistance with searching and eradication.
  • Encourage local grower groups (Local Action Groups) to participate in cooperative surveillance and reporting of infestations.
  • Encourage Local Action Groups to assist in the management and eradication of skeleton weed in their local areas.
  • Implement practical compliance regimes in affected areas.
  • Provide landholders with incentives to report infestations.
  • Provision of winter control treatments where landholders are compliant with program requirements.

Summer searching and surveillance

The Skeleton Weed Program undertakes annual summer surveillance of paddocks with high chances of having skeleton weed. 

DPIRD has been carrying out a targeted surveillance program since 2002 with the objective to find infestations in areas considered a high risk of having skeleton weed. This program also raises awareness of the presence of skeleton weed on high risk properties. It occurs on non-infested properties between December and March in grain growing areas.

Properties chosen for surveillance are considered to have a high probability of having skeleton weed, due to being near or adjacent to a current skeleton weed infested property. Other properties are identified from analysis of current infestation locations, and predictions of spread from these locations.

Surveillance involves checking a minimum of three paddocks over summer (preferably crop stubbles) on each selected property. The aim is to search up to 300 hectares per property.

Landholders or managers will be contacted via phone and correspondence to advise of impending scheduled surveillance and confirm which properties can be searched. Paddocks should be livestock-free and unsprayed for four weeks, and allow 5-10 days before Departmental searching of harvested paddocks; this will allow skeleton weed to grow above the stubble.

Ongoing monitoring

In addition to the surveillance program, all landholders in grain growing areas are encouraged to undertake their own monitoring for skeleton weed, as part of their farm biosecurity measures, using recommended search protocols as outlined in the Skeleton weed in Western Australia: Management Guide see the right hand side of this page.  

Reporting and identification

Regular communication with your local DPIRD office, skeleton weed Local Action Group and your neighbours is integral to achieving skeleton weed eradication on your property. There are a number of resources available to assist in helping identify or manage skeleton weed, which are outlined in the Skeleton weed in Western Australia: Management Guide see the right hand side of this page.  

Biosecurity Officers and Local Action Group Coordinators

DPIRD has a dedicated team of program-funded staff to provide support to land managers, undertaking operations in both rural and metropolitan locations. Your local Biosecurity Officer will guide you through the process to both identify and manage skeleton weed on your property, once finds are reported.

In addition, a skeleton weed Local Action Group (LAG) is a network of local farmers in a district affected by skeleton weed, each led by a LAG Coordinator. There are currently seven operational Local Action Groups in grain growing areas, designed to provide additional local support and in some cases work in collaboration with Biosecurity Officers. Contact details for both regional DPIRD and LAG offices are listed below. 

Regional reports - please contact your nearest DPIRD or LAG office.

DPIRD office locations Phone
Albany 08 9892 8444
Bunbury 08 9780 6100
Esperance 08 9083 1111
Geraldton 08 9956 8555
Merredin 08 9081 3111
Moora  08 9651 0555
Narembeen 08 9064 7131
Narrogin 08 9881 0222
Northam 08 9690 2000


Local Action Group Phone
Avon South LAG 0436 426 836
Central Wheatbelt LAG 0488 169 670
Lakes LAG 0409 351 373
Lower Lockhart LAG 0438 892 460
Mortlock LAG 0427 291 705
Narembeen LAG
0477 820 803
Yilgarn LAG 0477 964 891

Metropolitan reports - use the below options

Report your observations using the MyPestGuide Reporter app or online at

Further details

Further details about the Skeleton Weed Program can be found in the Skeleton weed in Western Australia Management Guide see right hand side of this page or email

Contact information

Pest and Disease Information Service (PaDIS)
+61 (0)8 9368 3080