Turf management

Learn about your legal obligations, and how to minimise the risk of spreading fire ants when working with turf.

turf rolled, green grass, top soil, gardener, landscaper

Untreated turf originating from within fire ant biosecurity zones is considered a high risk for the spreading of fire ants.

The Biosecurity Regulation 2016 details a series of steps you must follow when working with turf originating from within Queensland’s fire ant biosecurity zones:

Keep a written record of the steps you take to ensure the manure is produced, processed and stored correctly. Include details about chemical treatments and/or disturbance activities. Keep these records for a minimum of 2 years.

You should also be checking your property monthly for fire ants, paying special attention to organic material storage areas. This can be done in conjunction with existing property maintenance.

For further information, complete our online fire ant training or contact our compliance team on 13 25 23.

Producing and treating turf

Fire ants like warm, open areas making turf farms an ideal habitat for the pest to build their nests.

To reduce the risk of fire ants building their nests in your turf, a preventative treatment must be used.

  • You should chemically treat the turf and irrigate it immediately. The turf should not be lifted for 48 hours.
  • If you don't harvest the treated turf within 42 days, you should treat it again to maintain ongoing protection.

Bifenthrin is the preferred method of fire ant treatment for turf. The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) has approved the use of bifenthrin for this purpose. Refer to bifenthrin permit PER14317 (expires 29 February 2024).

Any variations to the treatment regime may not provide appropriate protection against fire ants before the turf is harvested, sold, and moved.

Storing turf

turf rolled, grass

Storing turf appropriately is a simple measure to further reduce the risk of fire ant infestation.

If turf is to remain on the property for more than 24 hours, you must use the following storage options:

  • off-ground and covered with an effective barrier that prevents alates (flying fire ant queens) from settling in the turf
  • on-ground:
    • covered with an effective barrier that prevents alates from settling in the turf
    • and

    • stored on a fire ant resistant surface surrounded by a 30cm wide perimeter treatment using an approved chemical product.

The role of the perimeter treatment and fire ant resistant surface is to prevent fire ant queens from crawling into the turf.

Storing off-ground

Turf can be stored off-ground on a trailer and either covered with a tarp or placed inside a shed.

Chemical treatment is not required if storing turf off-ground.

Storing materials on pallets is not considered off-ground storage. Material can easily fall through gaps and form a 'bridge', potentially allowing fire ants to infest the turf. If you want to use pallets, you may do so, but you must follow the recommendations for on-ground storage.

Storing on-ground

Turf can be stored on a fire ant resistant surface. Some examples of fire ant resistant surfaces include:

  • concrete or bitumen (with no cracks)
  • a barrier that fire ants cannot penetrate (e.g. 200 micron unperforated continuous plastic sheeting)
  • compacted ground (other than sand) that has been treated with an appropriate chemical product before materials are stored.

You must apply a chemical treatment correctly if using on-ground storage. If the material will be stored:

  • on a fire ant-resistant surface (as above), apply a 30cm wide perimeter around the storage area
  • on compacted ground, the entire ground surface must be treated.

It is important to keep the treated area free of material that could form an untreated ‘bridge’ to the turf.

The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) has approved the use of bifenthrin for the protection of storage areas (PER14317). This permit expires on 29 February 2024.

Insecticides must be used under the conditions of the APVMA permit, the safety data sheet (SDS) and in conjunction with the product label.

Moving turf

You may move turf within, across or outside the fire ant biosecurity zones if you do one of the following:

Planning on moving turf?

Different rules apply depending on what you are moving and where. Before you turn the key, make sure it’s safe to move your load.

You can also use our material movement advice tool to find out what rules apply to you and your situation.

If cannot comply with these conditions then you must not move the material unless you are granted a biosecurity instrument permit.