Abstract: Bellyache bush (Jatropha gossypiifolia L.) is an invasive weed that poses economic and environmental problems in northern Australia. Competition between pasture and bellyache bush was examined in North Queensland using combinations of five pasture treatments (uncut (control); cut as low, medium, and high pasture; and no pasture) and four bellyache bush densities (0, 2, 6 and 12 plants m-2) in a buffel grass (Cenchrus ciliaris L.) dominated pasture. The pasture treatments were applied approximately once per year but no treatments were applied directly to the bellyache bush plants. Measurements of bellyache bush flowering, seed formation, and mortality were undertaken over a 9-year period, along with monitoring the pasture basal cover and plant species diversity. Maximum flowering rates of bellyache bush occurred after 9 years (97%) in plots containing no pasture, with the lowest rates of 9% in uncut control plots. Earliest flowering (322 days after planting) and seed formation (411 days) also occurred in plots with no pasture compared with all other pasture treatments (range 1314–1393 days for seed formation to occur). No seeds were produced in uncut plots. At the end of 9 years, mortality rates of bellyache bush plants initially planted averaged ≥73% for treatments with some pasture compared with 55% under the no-pasture treatment. The percentage of herbaceous plant basal cover in uncut plots was increased 5-fold after 9 years, much greater than the average 2% increase recorded across the low, medium, and high pasture treatments. The number of herbaceous species in uncut plots remained largely unchanged, whereas there was an average reduction of 46% in the cut pasture treatments. Buffel grass remained the species with the greatest basal cover across all cut pasture treatments, followed by sabi grass (Urochloa mosambicensis (Hack.) Dandy) and then red Natal grass (Melinis repens (Willd.) Ziska). These results suggest that grazing strategies that maintain a healthy and competitive pasture layer may contribute to reducing the rate of spread of bellyache bush and complement traditional control techniques such as the use of herbicides.
Bebawi, Faiz F., Campbell, Shane D., Mayer, Robert J., 2013, Can competition with pasture be used to manipulate bellyache bush (Jatropha gossypiifolia L.) population biology?, Volume:35, Journal Article, viewed 07 August 2022, https://www.nintione.com.au/?p=2662.