PLAGUE PUZZLE: Farmer Graham Sheppard says the mysterious pasture dieback could
PLAGUE PUZZLE: Farmer Graham Sheppard says the mysterious pasture dieback could "decimate” our beef industry. Renee Albrecht

Fears for Gympie's beef industry as grass plague worsens

THEY say everyone loves a mystery, but Gympie farmers in parts of the region are now being faced by one which is putting a million-dollar industry at risk.

Known as dieback, it is a pasture plague which has left authorities searching for answers, turning healthy grass yellow and dead.

And while it has been previously found on-and-off in other Queensland areas for the past 20 years, Councillor Hilary Smerdon said since Christmas it had now taken hold in more of the region.

"I've heard a lot of farmers complain," he said, noting it had been reported in Theebine, Lower Wonga and Mooloo.

Cr Smerdon said he knew of one farmer who had been set up nicely for the winter, but now faced an uncertain future.

"With the dieback, it's wiped out their feed.

"It's going to be a major thing," he said.


Dieback at Lower Wonger.
Dieback at Lower Wonga. Tom Daunt

Kilkivan farmer Graham Sheppard agreed it could devastate the region, and was aware of one Queensland farm which had lost more than 2800ha to dieback.

"Pastures are getting killed and we don't know why," he said.

"Everyone is talking about it but we don't know why.

"The mealy bugs chew up the dead grass and you're left with nothing," he said.

While a number of theories have been thrown about, he said none have been identified as the cause. And if left unchecked and unsolved it could "decimate" the beef industry.

"We'll have to get rid of our cattle. You can't afford to grow crops to feed them," he said.

Worse, he said some farmers had inadvertently been putting the grass on the market.

"People are baling it up and selling it."

Damage to pasture was not his only fear, either.

"If we get it in the creek it's just going to be weeds that come back."

Residents whose properties are being affected by the dieback should call the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries on 13 25 23.