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Machine hygiene best defence against pest plants

Machine hygiene is the best defence against velvetleaf and other damaging weeds and is especially important during the spring planting season, says Waikato Regional Council’s biosecurity team.

Machine hygiene is the best defence against velvetleaf and other damaging weeds and is especially important during the spring planting season, says Waikato Regional Council’s biosecurity team.

Velvetleaf is an aggressive cropping weed – one of the world’s worst. It damages crops by competing with them for nutrients, space and water, and its seeds can persist on farms for decades, surviving digestion and silage processes.

Unfortunately, velvetleaf has this year been confirmed on 29 Waikato farms, which the regional council’s biosecurity officers will be revisiting over the three months up to Christmas.

A further 70 at risk farms across the region will be surveyed early next year for signs of this pest.

However, it’s possible more farms might be infested with velvetleaf and the council’s pest plant team leader Darion Embling is urging landowners and farm managers to be extra vigilant during the planting season.

“Earlier this year a huge amount of work went into finding out how farms in the Waikato became infested with his pest plant. We were able to link the infestations to imported fodder beet seeds, infested maize crops and maize silage, and unclean machinery,” said Mr Embling.

“With planting getting underway, it’s especially important machinery is cleaned before entering a farm – it stops the spread of velvetleaf and other nasties too,” he said.

Mr Embling said the council had developed long term management plans for the farms which had confirmed outbreaks of velvetleaf.

“We’re already getting reports of this plant cropping up again on these properties. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t more with velvetleaf on their land. So it’s important farmers right across our region know what it looks like and give us a call on 0800 800 401 to report sightings.”

Velvetleaf can grow up to 2.5 metres tall. It has large heart or circular shaped leaves, which are velvety and soft to touch. It has buttery-yellow flowers, which only open for a few hours.

“We’re continuing to work with landowners, industry, stakeholders and the Ministry for Primary Industries, but it’s going to take a long term commitment to contain and eradicate velvetleaf from our region,” Mr Embling said.

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