Farmers urged to report Velvetleaf

Farmers who have fodder beet crop are being asked to keep an eye out for one of the world’s worst cropping weeds.

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.

Originally thought to have been confined to the South Island, bar earlier findings in the Waikato Region, the plant has been found once more on a farm in Matamata and Horizons Regional Council is working closely with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to assist in containing its spread.

Horizons biosecurity manager Bill Martyn says there are no known velvetleaf sightings in the Horizons Region as yet but any farmers who think they may have found the plant are urged to make immediate contact with MPI via tollfree number 0800 80 99 66.

“It’s vitally important that any growers of fodder beet inspect their crops and report any suspected sightings to MPI immediately.

“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.

“An MPI or local council representative will carefully remove any suspected velvetleaf plants to make sure seed is not spread.

“Our staff are on standby to assist with the response and work alongside growers now with advice for site management into the future,” he says.

As a precautionary measure MPI has directed seed and grain retailers who have sold the Kyros of Bangor seed to hold any remaining stock and instruct buyers of the seed to return any unsown product. Any growers who still have unsown Kyros or Bangor seed should return this to the retail outlet where it was purchased.

In addition to this, Horizons is advising all farmers with any form of fodder beet crop to check for velvetleaf.

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.

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