Biosecurity advice: Help stop the spread of velvetleaf

Not all farm guests are welcome, and the arrival of velvetleaf, which has started to germinate in the North Island, is a reminder to prepare for pest plant growth and vigilance on your property

With seeds that can survive both animal digestion and harvesting processes, velvetleaf is notoriously difficult to eradicate

Velvetleaf is an annual broadleaf weed that can cause up to 70% reduction in crop yield and be spread by livestock and machinery.

Primarily found in maize and fodder beet crops around the country, velvetleaf competes with crops for space, nutrients, and water.

With seeds that can survive both animal digestion and harvesting processes, velvetleaf is notoriously difficult to eradicate.

Added to the problem is the fact the hardy seeds can survive for 60 years, and one plant can have as many as 30,000 seeds. Even one plant can cause massive problems, as velvetleaf is highly invasive and tenacious.

Velvetleaf can be spread from farm to farm via machinery, highlighting the need to identify any properties that may be infected and for paying attention to the effective cleaning and management of machinery between properties, particularly for agricultural contractors.

Velvetleaf is also spread by soil movement, stock movements, feed (like silage), and dairy effluent. While Biosecurity New Zealand (the biosecurity branch of MPI) and the Velvetleaf Programme have robust plans in place for recognising and helping stop the spread of velvetleaf, it’s difficult to control due to its resistance to many herbicides.

Farmers and contractors need to remain on the lookout for velvetleaf, and if discovered, photograph it, mark its location (so it can be found again easily), and immediately call the free hotline 0800 80 99 66.

Individuals should not remove any plants or allow stock to graze infected crops, as this could spread the seed.

Velvetleaf is highly invasive and tenacious

Increase your velvetleaf knowledge

As researchers work to find new ways to control, contain, and eliminate pests, MPI is keen to continue to share the latest information, help identify suspect pest plants, and offer help to farmers to manage this pest.

Community Outreach contractors are available to help educate and help eliminate velvetleaf. Also among services offered are biosecurity workshops, response to pest plant identification queries, surveillance, Farm Management Plans, and other activities.

Contractor Biosecurity Workshops are designed to help participants improve their understanding of biosecurity risks to their team, business, and the agricultural sector.

Biosecurity is an important part of agricultural contracting and farming, helping educate operators to identify key weeds of concern, identify key biosecurity risks, and educate contractors on how to minimise risk – both at the yard and on the farm.

Community Outreach contractors can book you and your team in for a workshop. All you need is two hours of your time (on a day that suits your staff and business), a space where all of your team can sit comfortably and access to a whiteboard and PowerPoint if possible.

The workshop can also address issues that are specific to your business operation and come up with solutions.

To find out more or to book your session, contact Sally Linton (North Island 027 278 1620; Rebecca Robertson or Sonya Nicol (Southland, Otago) 027 424 6129, or Velvetleaf Community Outreach (Canterbury, North Otago) 027 263 9873.

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