An awareness campaign has been launched by Waikato Regional Council, urging farmers to protect their properties from the invasive pest plant tutsan.
It’s in response to the recent rapid spread of tutsan through western Waikato, especially in hill country farming areas, as well as a change to its pest status in the region.
Under the Waikato Regional Pest Management Plan rules landowners are now required to get rid of tutsan from their properties.
“While tutsan has been around for many years it had been held in check by a leaf rust between the 1970s and 1990s,” said council biosecurity pest plants team leader, Darion Embling.
“Worryingly it’s on the increase again and it can have a massive impact on the productivity and profitability of farm businesses if its spread is left unchecked,” Mr Embling said.
Tutsan is spreading rapidly into valuable pastureland, production forestry and conservation land, where it forms monocultures and suppresses desirable plants. It produces large amounts of fine dust-like seed which is easily spread by birds, wind, farm machinery and through mowing of road side verges. Once established it has a very large root system which makes it hard to control.
It thrives on steeper, lower fertility and less intensively farmed land, particularly in the King Country and west coast of the region, up to Te Pahu and Raglan, and on the Coromandel Peninsula and in eastern Hauraki District. Further south, tutsan is a serious weed in Ruapehu district, particularly around Taumarunui, where it favours areas of high rainfall.
Farmers, other rural property owners and roading contractors have an important role to play in preventing the spread of tutsan and other pest plants too by having sound biosecurity practices, Mr Embling said.
“With the help of landowners and contractors, we want to get tutsan under control and stop its spread into farming areas that are currently clear of the pest.
“As part of our awareness campaign we’re contacting farmers directly about the impacts of tutsan and hammering home the message that while it is their responsibility to control, we can help,” Mr Embling said.
Landowners wanting advice on the best way of getting rid of tutsan can call their local biosecurity pest plant officer on 0800 BIOSEC (0800 246 732).
In the meantime, the following measures are recommended to reduce the risks.
Tutsan has small, pale yellow flowers that have five petals and prominent stamens. Flowers are followed by round red berries which ripen to black. Its leaves are oval (up to 100mm), turn red-yellow in autumn and smell like curry when crushed.
Visit www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/tutsan(external link) for more information on tutsan, including control methods.