New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), along with horticultural industry groups and regional councils, stepped up their search for velvetleaf over the Easter weekend, in a bid to contain it to existing locations.
The agricultural weed has been found on a number of properties in Canterbury, Otago, Marlborough and Waikato, raising concerns among vegetable growers in these regions.
"It is a very invasive weed that is very successful at competing with crops for nutrients, space and water," said MPI plants and environment surveillance manager Mark Bullians. "Right now we're still working to locate outbreaks and remove them from the ground, ideally before seed drops.
"Currently velvetleaf has been confirmed on 50 properties nationally. There has been some weed found in most regions, but Canterbury has the clear majority of cases."
The common denominator in all infestations to date has been the planting of imported fodder beet seeds. Two varieties in particular are implicated - Kyros and Bangor – although MPI is considering the possibility that other varieties could be involved.
“We are also investigating how the contaminated fodder beet seeds could have entered New Zealand,” Bullians said. “We know that the affected imported fodder beet seed consignments met New Zealand's importing requirements and were certified by the exporting country. MPI is currently reviewing the import requirements for seeds."