Lantana Control – a New Weapon

 This article is by member Stephanie Lymburner, a member of the National Lantana Management Group, a Federally funded organisation assessing ways of controlling lantana 

Are you tired of working in the summer trying to kill lantana? Tired of the scratches and whipping canes? Tired of seeing it overtop your plantings? Well, there maybe some good news – it’s not the silver bullet – but it IS a useful tool to have in your kit!
The state and federal governments have been working over the past 50 years to discover a biological control for Lantana (Lantana camara), and there have been successes and failures. The main problem facing them is dealing with organisms that can control the various phenotypes of the plant.
Some of the control methods damage the red flowering form whilst other will damage the pink flowering form – none of the organisms seem to control both. In the Northern Rivers region we have predominantly the pink flowering form.
Recently, after extensive testing it appears that there is a rust (Prospodium tuberculatum) that, whilst not  killing the plant, does suppress the leaf, flowering and seed formation of the pink flowering form, making it useful for suppressing growth of the weed near creek banks and on steep inaccessible slopes.
There  have been preliminary releases of the rust in both Queensland and NSW; with careful monitoring it appears to travel up to 40 kilometres from the original release site. It was released a number of years ago on the Far North Coast but due to drought conditions in the region didn’t spread widely or establish significantly. More recently with the warmer, moister weather it is being released again and should prove a useful adjunct to other means of control.
Currently it is being ‘grown’ at the Grafton Agricultural Research Station and can be posted to interested parties on request – the rust comes to you in a phial form already blended into a talcum powder carrier for ease of distribution: the powder is ready to be ‘shaken’ onto the reverse side of the leaves of a plant.
Should you be interested in releasing some on your property or Landcare site, you must also be prepared to do some regular follow up observations to assist in assessing the spread of the rust throughout the region. In ordering the rust from the Agricultural Station be aware that there maybe a delay in the delivery due to demand.
Bernadette Hanley
Industry and Investment NSW,
Grafton NSW 2460

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