The call for sightings of the aggressive weed velvetleaf has shifted to a national one following the detection of the plant in fodder beet crops in the North Island.
The Ministry for Primary Industries is encouraging farmers and growers who have planted fodder beet seed to check their crops and if they believe they have found the pest, to contact the ministry on its free hotline 0800 80 99 66.
Velvetleaf is a serious weed pest overseas, damaging crops by competing with them for nutrients and water. In New Zealand, it is an Unwanted Organism under the Biosecurity Act.
The ministry had been investigating the appearance of velvetleaf on a number of South Island properties and spread the net wider on the understanding that potentially contaminated fodder beet seed had also been sold in the North Island.
Plants and Environment Surveillance Manager Mark Bullians says MPI has now positively identified the weed on a property in the Waikato.
The latest information is that velvetleaf has been confirmed on properties in Canterbury, Central Otago, Marlborough and Waikato.
“The common denominator in all cases is fodder beet crops grown from imported seed,” Mr Bullians says.
“While we are not certain this is the full picture, we now know that some lines of two particular seed varieties – Kyros and Bangor – are very likely to have been contaminated with velvetleaf seed. We believe there may be some other seed varieties implicated.
“For this reason, we urge all farmers and growers who have planted fodder beet this season to check their fields immediately. If you believe you have found this distinctive weed, call MPI immediately on 0800 80 99 66.”
Velvetleaf is a tall-growing weed reaching heights of up to 2m. It has buttery yellow flowers and large velvety heart shaped leaves.
Mr Bullians says farmers are advised to photograph any plants, contact the ministry and mark the location of plants so they can be found again easily.
He cautions against pulling up plants and says a technical expert will visit and carefully remove any plants to make sure any velvetleaf seed is not spread.
The ministry is investigating how the contaminated weed seeds could have entered New Zealand. The affected imported fodder beet seed consignments met New Zealand’s importing requirements and were certified by the exporting country. The Ministry has contacted the exporting authority and is currently reviewing the import requirements for seed.
Mr Bullians says the ministry is working closely with primary industry bodies from both the animal and grain/seed sectors as well as regional councils on managing this situation.
Its immediate priority is to find outbreaks of the weed and contain it. The earlier it finds velvetleaf, the better are the our chances of controlling it.