Farmers reminded to help keep Chilean needle grass out of the Horizons Region

Horizons Regional Council is reminding farmers to continue their vigilance keeping Chilean needle grass out of the region.

Horizons biodiversity, biosecurity and partnerships manager Craig Davey says because of the known presence of Chilean needle grass in the Hawke’s Bay region, the recent expiry of the Tukituki Controlled Area Notice regarding gravel extraction and expiry of biosecurity restrictions relating to gravel extraction on the Waipawa River increases the risk of Chilean needle grass spreading to the region. Potential pathways of the plant include movement of contaminated stock, equipment, machinery and gravel.
“Farmers need to know the likely pathways of spread to their properties, as this pest plant would have a hugely negative impact on farms within much of the region,” says Mr Davey.
“Chilean needle grass is extremely difficult to remove once it establishes in an area.
“Some of the problems experienced when needle grass is present include the inability to graze paddocks for up to five months of the year and the downgrading of pelts, meat or wool. The seeds are needle-sharp with backwards facing bristles and can drill through fleece and into muscle, causing painful abscesses for animals.
“Chilean needle grass has not been found in the Horizons Region to date, but we want farmers and contractors to be aware precautions need to be taken to continue keeping it out – if you think you’ve found it, we want to know straight away.”
“Recently published research about Chilean needle grass by AgResearch principal scientist Dr Graeme Bourdot confirms that if more is not done to stop its spread it could eventually cover nearly 600,000 hectares of the Horizons region, and cost the whole country over a billion dollars. The most cost-effective scenario is to act early.
Mr Davey says any mowing or soil engaging equipment, machinery and vehicles used in Hawke’s Bay and moved into the Tararua or Rangitīkei districts need to be washed before being used to stop the spread of Chilean needle grass.
“It can also be spread by animals and people, so caution needs to be taken when moving from areas contaminated by Chilean needle grass.
“Chilean needle grass has erect tussock-like perennial grass that can grow up to 1m in height with purple tinged, spiky heads and lime green leaves.
“When it is seeding between October and March, seeds have a sharp needle like tip with a long twisting awn, and have backward-pointing bristles which make them hard to remove once they are embedded.
“If you think you’ve found Chilean needle grass on your property, machinery, or would like to know about source areas and clean down advice, please call our pest plant team on freephone 0508 800 800.”