Velvetleaf leaf numbers unchanged
Waikato Regional Council (WRC) staff have warned farmers to stay alert for signs of velvetleaf, despite no new cases found so far this summer.
The number of confirmed cases of the pest weed has remained unchanged at 29 since autumn.
The invasive pest is an annual plant that germinates in the latespring early-summer and any new sightings should now be visible on farmland. In August, Waikato Regional Council staff said they suspected it to have potentially spread to about 70 farms.
Five of these cases have been confirmed from maize crops, WRC pest plant officer Heidi Pene told farmers at a Foundation for Arable Research (FAR) field day at Tamahere, south of Hamilton.
Every confirmed sighting has been recorded and checked and the WRC has undertaken a management plan with the landowners to help them keep farming while containing the weed.
One of the maize-growing affected farmers reverted the crop back to pasture so the weed could be found and eradicated.
Two of the five growers were commercial growers and both were engaged in control regimes to limit the plant’s spread. There were also nine cases of velvetleaf found in fodderbeet, with about four to five plants found on each of these farms.
The rest of the cases are on dairy pasture which were spread either from infected farm machinery or maize silage which contained velvetleaf seed.
Pene said it was hoped they eradicated the plants on the fodderbeet crops before they turned to seed.
‘‘But there’s a good chance there were plants we didn’t pick up on.’’
Some of those paddocks would go back into crops again this year and would have to be intensively checked while other farmers have reverted the crop back to pasture.
A management plan for the affected farms had also been created. This included pre and post-emergence spraying, cleaning any cultivating machinery coming onto the farm before it left and being able to walk through the crop to check it for signs of the plant.
‘‘You have to walk through your crops and put your hand on your heart and say ‘there is no velvetleaf in my maize’, before it goes off your property,’’ Pene said.
Waikato Regional Council’s Heidi Pene and Darion Embling talk to farmers at a field day.