African lovegrass (Eragrostis curvula)

African lovegrass is a hardy, drought-tolerant grass that grows in clumps. It’s a poor feed for livestock and can quickly colonise overgrazed and disturbed sites.

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How does this weed affect you?

African lovegrass takes over pastures and disturbed areas.  It degrades pastures because it’s not very nutritious for livestock. There are seven types of African lovegrass in Australia.

What does it look like?

African lovegrass is a perennial grass that grows in clumps up to 1.2 m tall.

Leaves are:

  • dark green to blue-green
  • 3 mm wide
  • with rolled edges.

African lovegrass has a small, thin structure at the base of the leaf blade called a ligule. The ligule has a ring of white hairs.

Stems are:

  • slender
  • erect
  • sometimes bent at the nodes.

Seeds are:

  • about 1 mm long
  • clustered at the end of the stems
  • in groups 6 – 30 cm long.

Roots are:

  • fibrous.

Similar looking plants

African lovegrass looks like other perennial pasture tussock grasses. It is difficult to tell native and introduced Eragrostis species from each other. Other desirable tussock grasses such as Poa tussock (Poa labillardieri) also look similar.

Consol lovegrass (Eragrostis curvula cv. Consol) is a non-weed cultivar of African lovegrass. It is grown in pastures on sandy soils. The differences between this cultivar and the weed African lovegrass are subtle. It is difficult to tell them apart.

For help to identify tussock grasses, contact:

  • your local council weeds officer
  • a Local Land Services officer
  • Herbarium of NSW.

Where is it found?

African lovegrass grows throughout NSW, on roadsides and in grazing land.

African lovegrass is native to southern Africa. It was introduced in Argentina and the United States as a forage plant. It was accidentally introduced into Australia before 1900. It has since been deliberately introduced for experiments.

What type of environment does it grow in?

African lovegrass thrives on acidic, sandy soils with low fertility. It is heat and drought tolerant. Frost can damage it, but it regrows in warmer weather.

How does it spread?

Seed spreads:

  • short distances by wind
  • between paddocks by livestock
  • along roads by machinery and vehicles
  • in hay and fodder
  • by water.

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Control

Long-term control needs to consider that:

  • most seeds germinate in autumn or spring, with rainfall and temperatures over 10°C
  • seeds can germinate year round
  • some seed remains viable for up to 17 years
  • seedlings grow slowly in the first six weeks - they can be out-competed by other pastures species
  • most flowers appear from early summer
  • it can flower year round in coastal regions
  • seeds are present from January to March
  • growth slows in autumn and winter
  • seeds are dormant for 5 – 6 months before they grow.

Prevention

To reduce the chance of African lovegrass establishing you can:

  • avoid bringing in hay, grain or silage from African lovegrass areas
  • limit animal movement from infested areas into clean paddocks
  • check the coats of new stock for weed seeds
  • quarantine new stock for at least 10 days
  • clean vehicles and machinery before coming onto your property
  • inspect hay or fodder for weed seeds
  • broadcast seed for desirable species in disturbed pastures
  • revegetate unproductive areas
  • spray the boundaries of infested paddocks with a 20 – 25 m strip.

Early detection

Watch for new plants and control African lovegrass as soon as it appears. Minimise soil disturbance when clearing. Spot spraying may be better than disturbing a large patch of African lovegrass.

Maintain healthy pastures

Healthy pastures are the best long-term defence against African lovegrass. It establishes in thin and bare patches. Pastures with less than 70% ground cover are at more risk of invasion.  

To maintain pastures:

  • grow combinations of winter and summer pastures
  • rest pastures between grazing periods
  • adjust grazing to:
    • always keep at least 90% of the ground covered with good pasture plants
    • reduce numbers of grazing animals before overgrazing
  • test soil to check fertility
  • use fertiliser if needed.

To sow a new pasture into an infested paddock:

  • burn dead material and cultivate to 10 cm depth in winter
  • cultivate again in summer to remove any remaining plants or remove plants by grazing if direct drilling
  • grow cereal or fodder crops for at least two years if possible
  • soil test and use fertiliser
  • spell new pastures for 12 months or graze lightly only if growing conditions are favourable
  • control any new African lovegrass plants.

Aerial spraying and re-sowing pastures is risky. African lovegrass usually grows on poor soils. Large amounts of lime and fertiliser are needed to improve the soil.

Grazing to control African lovegrass

Graze African lovegrass when it is young and green. Heavy grazing can help break up old unpalatable material. Grazing can stop African lovegrass seeding, but should not be the main control strategy.

Fire

Burning African lovegrass helps reduce old growth and allows other plants to germinate. Burning can dry out soils. This can reduce pasture growth and African lovegrass will mature faster.

Chemical control

Herbicides are most effective in combination with healthy, competitive pastures. The best time to treat African lovegrass with herbicide is in spring. Burn heavy infestations before spraying the regrowth.

Flupropanate gives the best control of African lovegrass. It can take three months to have a noticeable effect and up to 18 months to kill the plant. Avoid spraying in winter. Observe grazing withholding periods.

Glyphosate will also kill African lovegrass. Apply to actively growing plants in spring and summer. Use a glyphosate based herbicide to kill any regrowth.

Herbicide options

WARNING - ALWAYS READ THE LABEL
Users of agricultural or veterinary chemical products must always read the label and any permit, before using the product, and strictly comply with the directions on the label and the conditions of any permit. Users are not absolved from compliance with the directions on the label or the conditions of the permit by reason of any statement made or not made in this information. To view permits or product labels go to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority website www.apvma.gov.au

See Using herbicides for more information.


PERMIT 9792 Expires 30/11/2020
Flupropanate 745 g/L (Tussock®)
Rate: 1.5–3.0 L/ha
Comments: Ground and aerial boom application. Only apply to green actively growing plants.
Withholding period: Don't graze cows or goats that are being milked on treated areas. Blanket sprayed pastures - grazing or cutting for stock feed - 120 days. Spot sprayed areas - grazing or cutting for stock feed - 14 days. Don't graze stock on treated areas for 14 days prior to slaughter.
Herbicide group: J, Inhibitors of fat synthesis (Not ACCase inhibitors)
Resistance risk: Moderate


PERMIT 9792 Expires 30/11/2020
Flupropanate 745 g/L (Tussock®)
Rate: 150–300 mL per 100 L water
Comments: Spot spray application. Only apply to green actively growing plants.
Withholding period: Don't graze cows or goats that are being milked on treated areas. Blanket sprayed pastures - grazing or cutting for stock feed - 120 days. Spot sprayed areas - grazing or cutting for stock feed - 14 days. Don't graze stock on treated areas for 14 days prior to slaughter.
Herbicide group: J, Inhibitors of fat synthesis (Not ACCase inhibitors)
Resistance risk: Moderate


Flupropanate 745 g/L (Tussock®)
Rate: 300 mL per 100 L of water
Comments: Spot spray application.
Withholding period: Don't graze cows or goats that are being milked on treated areas. Blanket sprayed pastures - grazing or cutting for stock feed - 120 days. Spot sprayed areas - grazing or cutting for stock feed - 14 days. Don't graze stock on treated areas for 14 days prior to slaughter.
Herbicide group: J, Inhibitors of fat synthesis (Not ACCase inhibitors)
Resistance risk: Moderate


Flupropanate 745 g/L (Tussock®)
Rate: 3.0 L/ha
Comments: Boom spray application using 150 L water/ha. Apply July to December.
Withholding period: Don't graze cows or goats that are being milked on treated areas. Blanket sprayed pastures - grazing or cutting for stock feed - 120 days. Spot sprayed areas - grazing or cutting for stock feed - 14 days. Don't graze stock on treated areas for 14 days prior to slaughter.
Herbicide group: J, Inhibitors of fat synthesis (Not ACCase inhibitors)
Resistance risk: Moderate


Glyphosate 360 g/L (Roundup®)
Rate: 1.0 L per 100 L water
Comments: Apply to actively growing plants.
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: M, Inhibitors of EPSP synthase
Resistance risk: Moderate


Glyphosate 360 g/L (Roundup®)
Rate: 6.0 L per 100 L water
Comments: Boom application.
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: M, Inhibitors of EPSP synthase
Resistance risk: Moderate


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Biosecurity duty

The content provided here is for information purposes only and is taken from the Biosecurity Act 2015 and its subordinate legislation, and the Regional Strategic Weed Management Plans (published by each Local Land Services region in NSW). It describes the state and regional priorities for weeds in New South Wales, Australia.

Area Duty
All of NSW General Biosecurity Duty
All plants are regulated with a general biosecurity duty to prevent, eliminate or minimise any biosecurity risk they may pose. Any person who deals with any plant, who knows (or ought to know) of any biosecurity risk, has a duty to ensure the risk is prevented, eliminated or minimised, so far as is reasonably practicable.
South East Regional Recommended Measure*
Land managers reduce impacts from the plant on priority assets.
*To see the Regional Strategic Weeds Management Plans containing demonstrated outcomes that fulfill the general biosecurity duty for this weed click here

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For technical advice and assistance with identification please contact your local council weeds officer.
For further information call the NSW DPI Biosecurity Helpline on 1800 680 244 or send an email to weeds@dpi.nsw.gov.au

Disclaimers

Pasture improvement may be associated with an increase in the incidence of certain livestock health disorders. Livestock and production losses from some disorders are possible. Management may need to be modified to minimise risk. Consult your veterinarian or adviser when planning pasture improvement. The Native Vegetation Act 2003 restricts some pasture improvement practices where existing pasture contains native species. Inquire through the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage for further details.

Reviewed 2018