Spraying of roadsides on State Highway 77 between Ashburton
and Methven is due to start this month in a move to prevent
the plant pest black grass becoming established in New
The use of selected herbicides in areas of risk along the
route is part of a plan to monitor the area and eradicate any
black grass plants which may grow following the spilling of
contaminated seed in July.
The plan has been developed by the Ministry of Primary
Industries, Federated Farmers and the Foundation for Arable
Research (Far). It will involve spraying at-risk areas at
least three times in the first year, five times in the
second, and three times in the third year.
The whole route will be walked by people with the skills to
identify the plant pest. The estimated budget is $400,000.
The emphasis was on preventing the establishment of a plant
pest, rather than on blame, when farmers along the route met
in Ashburton recently.
About 20 farmers who live along the route were updated on the
Grass seed was spilt in July, when it was being moved by
truck between Tinwald and Methven. It was potentially
contaminated with a small quantity of viable black grass
Black grass (Alopecurus myosuroides) is a serious invasive
weed of winter crops in the UK and Europe, where it has
developed resistance to many herbicides. It competes with
crops for nutrients, light, water and space and reduces
David Yard, a response manager with the ministry, emphasised
that the ministry, the industry and landowners were all
involved in keeping the black grass from becoming
It was estimated 2100 black grass seeds were lost along the
While this was only about an egg cup full, one black grass
seed was one too many, Mr Yard said.
''The Ministry of Primary Industries believes there is a high
chance of eradicating black grass before it becomes
established,'' Mr Yard said.
Far chief executive Nick Pyke told farmers about 80% of black
grass seed germinated in autumn and very few seeds were
likely to geminate in the spring. The seed would survive for
two to three years relatively easily in both cultivated and
Black grass was similar to meadow foxtail, which would be
flowering at present. The black grass seed spilt would not be
flowering yet. It had also been confused with timothy, Mr
- Anyone who thinks they may have found a black grass plant
should contact the Ministry of Primary Industries on 0800 80
- Maureen Bishop.