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Published: 2016-05-24 00:00:00

Farmers are being urged to protect farms from unwanted pest plants, like the invasive velvetleaf, by ensuring machinery, vehicles and equipment has been cleaned in the lead up to Gypsy Day.

The plea is being made after recent investigations by Waikato Regional Council confirmed unclean machinery was responsible for the spread of velvetleaf infestations between some farms in the region.

“Over the past month we’ve investigated pathways to velvetleaf infestation in the Waikato region. It’s been a complex task, but we’ve been able to link the spread of velvetleaf to infested maize crops and silage, and unclean machinery,” said council biosecurity spokesman, Patrick Whaley.

“It’s clear that farmers and contractors have an important role to play in preventing the spread of pest plants and weeds through good on farm biosecurity practices,” Mr Whaley said. “Machinery hygiene is especially important with Gypsy Day coming up and the movement of stock, machines and vehicles between farms.”

Machinery hygiene must be practiced any time a machine is moved between properties. Any form of plant or soil contamination has a real potential of harbouring pests or weeds. Machinery should be cleaned so no visible soil or plant matter remains which might spread pests or weeds

Ideally, machinery wash-down should occur on the property prior to movement, thereby containing any problems at source. Alternatively, machinery may be cleaned in a built-for-purpose wash-down facility, but care should be taken to ensure there is not a risk of pest spread during transport to that facility.

“Pest plants such as velvetleaf can have a massive impact on the productivity and profitability of farm businesses, so farmers and contractors need to be extra vigilant when moving between properties,” Mr Whaley said.

Gypsy Day occurs in the week leading up to and immediately following 1 June each year. It involves the mass transporting of cows and machinery around the country’s roads as farm contractors relocate themselves and their stock in time for the new season.