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Published: 2017-11-06 10:15:00

A multi-agency steering group set up to tackle the damaging agricultural pest velvetleaf in the Waikato region is urging farmers and rural contractors to check all machinery is clean to protect farms from nasty weeds.

The steering group aims to ensure the coordinated response to velvetleaf in the Waikato region. It comprises representatives of Waikato Regional Council, Federated Farmers – Waikato, DairyNZ, the Rural Agricultural Contractors Association, PGG Wrightson, Foundation for Arable Research, Pioneer Seeds, AgResearch, and Farmlands.

Considered one of the world’s worst cropping weeds, velvetleaf has been found growing on farms in the Matamata-Piako, Te Awamutu and north Waikato areas of the Waikato region. It has spread to properties via:

  • infested fodder beet seeds imported from overseas
  • the distribution of infested maize crops and maize silage
  • unclean machinery.

Waikato Regional Council’s biosecurity pest plants team leader Darion Embling said landowners and farm contractors need to be vigilant.

“Machinery and vehicle movements aren’t the only culprits responsible for the spread of pests, but they do pose a very high risk,” said Mr Embling.

“Last year we were able to conclusively link velvetleaf infestations on some properties to the movement of unclean machinery, which is why good machine hygiene practices are so important.

“That’s why we’ve set up this steering group – to ensure we can educate operators throughout the ag industry that biosecurity starts at the farm gate. Cleaning machinery is a big part of that – it will ensure plant or soil contamination that might be harbouring pests, weeds or seeds is removed before entering the next property,” Mr Embling said.

Advice on machine hygiene is available at

“We now have 37 properties in the region which have had confirmed infestations of velvetleaf – ranging from a handful of plants to hundreds, even thousands. And we know the seeds can remain dormant for up to 60 years.

“We’re working closely with farm managers, landowners and rural contractors to manage the risks, and have developed long term plans to stop this nasty weed from spreading to other properties,” Mr Embling said.

Suspected sightings of velvetleaf should be reported to Waikato Regional Council’s biosecurity pest plants team on 0800 246 732 (0800 BIOSEC). This allows council staff to assess the property and then work with landowners and farm managers on a plan if the presence of velvetleaf is confirmed.

Council biosecurity pest plants officer Ben Elliot cleans a machine.

Council biosecurity pest plants officer Ben Elliot cleans a machine.