Southland farmers are being urged to to check their crops now for the pest weed velvetleaf and not wait for biosecurity inspection teams. Velvetleaf is an aggressive weed which damages crops by competing with them for nutrients and water. It has the potential to devastate future crops if it gets established.
Farmers who find suspected velvetleaf plants (pictured) should leave them in the ground, photograph them and mark their location before contacting the Ministry for Primary Industries as soon as possible on 0800 80 99 66 .
There are plans to inspect the fodder beet crops of all properties planted with the known contaminated seed – but time is running out before the invasive weed drops its seeds and spreads. Environment Southland biosecurity manager Richard Bowman says seven velvetleaf plants have been discovered on Southland properties and it will be a mammoth job to check the 1400 hectares of crops that need to be inspected.
In contrast to other areas the velvetleaf plants found in Southland have been smaller and more difficult to see in the crops, with many only the same height or smaller than the fodder beet.
An additional 27 staff from outside Southland joined Environment Southland staff from today (30 March 2016) to help with the inspections. Staff have been brought in by AsureQuality Ltd, which is managing the national response on behalf of the Ministry. Environment Southland is leading the local response, with Emergency Management Southland providing support.
“There is a definite sense of urgency about finding these plants,” Mr Bowman said. “We have only a small window of opportunity before they seed.”