Call for vig­i­lance against crop pest

Matamata Chronicle - - Rural Delivery -

Waikato Re­gional Coun­cil biose­cu­rity staff are keep­ing a very close watch on the po­ten­tial spread of the pest plant vel­vet leaf af­ter in­ves­ti­ga­tions showed an ini­tial in­fes­ta­tion near Wai­hou ap­peared to have had some lim­ited spread­ing.

Vel­vet leaf is con­sid­ered one of the worst crop pests in Amer­ica.

In Fe­bru­ary, it was found in a maize block near Wai­hou af­ter the landowner asked a seed rep­re­sen­ta­tive what it was. It was the first time the plant had been found in the Waikato and only the fourth time ever in New Zealand.

A sub­se­quent sur­vey car­ried out in co-op­er­a­tion with MAF Biose­cu­rity New Zealand and AgRe­search found vel­vet leaf in maize on an ad­join­ing prop­erty.

Also, vel­vet leaf was found on two nearby prop­er­ties that had re­ceived maize silage from the prop­erty where vel­vet leaf was ini­tially found.

At this stage no other vel­vet leaf in­fes­ta­tions are known in the Waikato al­though there was some at He­lensville which has been de­stroyed and the site is un­der watch by Auck­land Coun­cil staff.

One pos­si­bil­ity

be­ing in­ves­ti­gated is that the vel­vet leaf com­ing into the Waikato may have been the re­sult of con­tam­i­nated im­ported chicken feed or palm ker­nel.

It was also pos­si­ble that seeds had been spread in ma­chin­ery used by agri­cul­tural con­trac­tors.

Waikato Re­gional Coun­cil biose­cu­rity of­fi­cer Wendy Mead said in­ves­ti­ga­tions were con­tin­u­ing to de­ter­mine the way vel­vet leaf had spread to the Waikato. ‘‘It is pos­si­ble vel­vet leaf has been in the coun­try for a num­ber of years but has only just started to spread and be­come weedy,’’ she said. In the mean­time, all af­fected landown­ers in the Wai­hou area had re­sponded pos­i­tively to coun­cil re­quests to elim­i­nate the plant and coun­cil biose­cu­rity con­trac­tors have cleaned har­vest­ing ma­chin­ery to help pre­vent seeds be­ing spread.

Prop­er­ties re­ceiv­ing maize silage from the af­fected ar­eas in pre­vi­ous years will also be in­spected.

Mrs Mead asked land own­ers gen­er­ally to be vig­i­lant for any signs of vel­vet leaf.

Peo­ple can re­port pos­si­ble sight­ings or get ad­vice by phon­ing 0800 BIOSEC

Pest plant: Vel­vet leaf is con­sid­ered one of the worst crop pests in Amer­ica.

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