Buffel grass declared a weed in South Australia, but graziers say 'king of pastures' supports cattle industry

Found in: News

Buffel grass, which many graziers consider the "king of pastures", has officially been declared a weed in South Australia.

The grass was brought in from Africa and parts of Asia more than 50 years ago to control dust and improve pasture.

Queensland grazier Stewart Taylor said the dominant species supports much of the beef industry in northern Australia, with Buffel accounting for 90 per cent of the NAPCO (North Australian Pastoral Company) property he manages at Roma.

According to Mr Taylor, not only does it green up with only a bit of rain, it also lasts much longer than other pastures when it is dry.

"We've tried to go against the Buffel and put other grasses in and we've got to a stage now where we love it," he said.

"Buffel's king and we work with it."

But ecologist John Read said the invasive species was wiping out native plants and threatening endangered animals in arid and semi-arid regions like the remote Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in South Australia.

"It's moving a bit like a cancer across the countryside," he said.

"We've spent a lot of time and effort and money working on issues like camels and foxes and rabbits and cats and they were all really big problems. But this Buffel grass, it seems to be almost an order of magnitude bigger than that again. It's really changing whole communities."

Communities in the APY Lands, which span more than 100,000 square km, say finding bush foods is far more difficult because of the infestation.

Anangu women have even written a song about the "bad grass".

"This grass destroys our food," said Timpulya Mervin from Watarru.

"Before we used to have lots of bush tucker. We were healthy when we ate those foods."

While not as widespread, Buffel grass is also a pest in the Uluru and Kata Tjuta National Park.

It was originally planted around the bases of the iconic sacred sites to control erosion but the manager of natural and cultural resources Kerrie Bennison said the solution had now become the problem.

"We're relatively lucky in terms of weeds here in the park," she said.

"But Buffel grass has been the one that's been able to survive our harsh conditions and here around Uluru it's quite a challenge."

For more on this story watch the report on ABC Landline

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