Australia's beef industry faces grass disease threat

SYDNEY, April 13 (Xinhua) -- A quick-spreading mystery grass disease is killing massive amounts of prime cattle pastures across Queensland State, threatening Australia's lucrative beef industry. 

With the state accounting for half of Australia's beef and veal production, experts have been competing against time to find a solution but so far have been stumped.
Known as "dieback," the disease makes grass turn yellow and eventually die even with sufficient rainfall in the area.

First detected by an agronomist in Central Queensland four years ago, it has now been found in the far north and south of the state, with some farmers reporting that around 80 percent of their cattle-grazing land has been affected.

To combat the problem, a research team from Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) has partnered with the Queensland government to investigate the cause of dieback in the hope to find a solution."There's been 35,000 hectares of reported dieback and I'd imagine that to be a fraction of the true total," project manager from MLA Doug McNicholl told local media on Friday.

"Until scientists have a solution, graziers are trying all manner of methods to control the problem including spraying, blade ploughing, ripping, applying fertilisers and replanting different pastures." Although the total cost of the disease remains unknown, McNicholl said "I'm no economist; it's hard to put a number on it, but it would have a lot of zeros on the end."

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