Warning after weed discoveries

A weed pest falling off many arable growers’ radars is being brought back to their attention.

New discoveries of velvetleaf on Waikato properties in April have sharpened awareness of the risk.

An initial velvetleaf incursion, associated with maize growing in Auckland and Waikato, spread to about 80 properties more than 15 years ago.

This escalated in 2015-16 when contaminated fodder beet seed lines imported from overseas were sown on hundreds of properties mainly in Canterbury, Otago and Southland.

In 2023, nine velvetleaf plants were found in a Mid Canterbury paddock which was linked to the earlier outbreak.

Investigations into the April discoveries had yet to throw up any obvious leads for its source.

Foundation for Arable Research biosecurity officer Ash Mills said farmers should carry out routine surveillance, particularly when paddocks were cultivated, as seeds could lie dormant in the soil and germinate years later.


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