Velvetleaf found in Horizons Region

Horizons Regional Council has confirmed findings of Velvetleaf in fodder crop in the Whanganui, Ruapehu and Horowhenua districts.

Horizons biosecurity staff have been working closely with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to assist in containing the spread of Velvetleaf and have found 252 plants while inspecting local properties.

Horizons biosecurity manager Bill Martyn says his team inspected 125 hectares over the Easter break.

“This included all known sites of the Kyros line of fodder beet which has been implicated in the Velvetleaf incursion,” says Mr Martyn.

“Unfortunately the majority of these sites, except in Ohakune, are in the advanced stage of shedding seed. Despite staff removing all seed they could find, the rain on Friday and Saturday nights has washed many away and into cracks in the ground.”

Mr Martyn says while all known sites of Kyros fodder beet have been examined, there may be other lines that have been affected.

“Our staff are proactively investigating other fodder crops, but as we cannot be everywhere at once, we urge farmers to check their crops for Velvetleaf with its distinctive large heart-shaped leaves. We have found it to also look like a dead thistle plant at sites in our Region.

“If you have any questions or would like some help checking your crop please give us a call on tollfree 0508 800 800. However, if you think you may have found the plant, please make immediate contact with MPI via tollfree number 0800 80 99 66.”

The next steps for Horizons biosecurity staff include contacting contractors and seed reps to isolate and identify the risk areas of farms.

“Our staff will also be working alongside farmers with advice for site management into the future. We understand they will be concerned about land use going forward and we will do everything we can to help,” says Mr Martyn.

The Ministry is currently investigating how the weed seeds could have entered New Zealand and working with a range of primary sector organisations and regional councils to establish the extent of its spread.

More information and updates about the weed is available from the MPI website

Velvetleaf is a serious pest weed overseas; damaging crops by competing with them for nutrients and water. It is also an unwanted organism under the Biosecurity Act, meaning its entry to New Zealand is prohibited.

Velvetleaf is an annual broad-leafed herb that grows 1-2.5m tall. It is distinguishable by its large and heart-shaped leaves that are velvety to the touch. It flowers from spring through autumn with buttery-yellow flowers that are about 3cm across. It also has distinctive seedpods with 12-15 segments in a cup-like ring. Each seedpod is 2.5cm in diameter.

If you think you have the weed please take a photo and mark the location of any plants so they can be easily found again. It is important that you do not pull up any suspected plants or graze stock in potentially infested crops.