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New velvetleaf outbreaks cause for concern in Waikato

Waikato Regional Council says it’s working closely with the Ministry of Primary Industries on the containment and eradication of two new outbreaks of the pest plant velvetleaf in the region.

Velvetleaf is a prolific seeder which kills off crops that it infests. It is an unwanted organism under the Biosecurity Act.

The new Waikato outbreaks – at Matamata and Piopio – have been linked to potentially contaminated imported fodder beet seed, which is believed to have led to a number of velvetleaf finds in the South Island.

“We became aware last week of the new infestation sites in the Waikato and we’re supporting the ministry in its efforts to respond to them,” said the council’s pest plants team leader Darion Embling.

The first time velvetleaf was discovered in Waikato was in 2011 when the pest was detected in maize on a number of farms mostly in Matamata-Piako district, with one find each in Waikato and Waipa districts. The source of this outbreak is unknown. The regional council has contained this outbreak and is working towards complete eradication.

“We’re keen to help ensure the new outbreaks at Matamata and Piopio also don’t lead to widespread problems,” said Mr Embling.

He urged farmers to keep an eye out for the plant and particularly check any sites where they’ve used fodder beet seeds in the last few years. Any signs of velvetleaf should be reported to the ministry on 0800 80 99 66.

Farmers are also advised to photograph any plants and mark their location so they can be found again easily. The ministry warns against pulling up plants and says a technical expert will visit and carefully remove any plants to make sure velvetleaf seed, if present, is not spread.

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