Last week Red Witchweed was found growing in a sugarcane crop, at Mackay, in Queensland.

Red Witchweed, a class 1 weed in Queensland and New South Wales, is a serious pest, which, in some cases, can stop the growth of sugarcane, cereal crops and legumes.

This is the first outbreak in Australia, however it could easily grow in our region and wreak havoc.

While the weed has been confirmed on one property, information to date suggests that the infestation may be on a small number of other properties in the immediate area.

Biosecurity Queensland has placed movement restrictions on the cane farm where the weed was confirmed.

Red witchweed (Striga asiatica) is a parasitic plant which grows attached to the roots of a ‘host’ plant. The weed then robs its host of water and nutrients, suppressing its growth.

The weed grows 20 cm to 40 cm tall and is distinguished from native species of witchweed by the calyx, which has 10 ribs. Native species have calyces with five ribs.

Leaves are arranged in opposite pairs along the stem. They are 6 mm-40 mm long and 1 mm-4 mm wide and have a tapered pointed tip.

Flowers are 5 mm-20 mm long and are usually red, but can be white, yellow or pink. Seeds are very small and remain viable in the soil for up to 15 years.

Land holders in Northern NSW are urged to report any suspect weeds to Far North Coast Weeds on 6623 3847

Further information on Red Witchweed is available at www.daff.qld.gov.au .