As more confirmed cases of velvetleaf are reported across New Zealand, the country’s horticultural industry is being urged to remain vigilant in their management of the plant pest.
The agricultural weed was discovered on a number of properties in Canterbury, Otago, Marlborough and Waikato earlier this year. The common denominator in the initial infestations was the planting of imported fodder beet seeds.
In late March, MPI reported velvetleaf had been found on 50 properties nationally. The number of confirmed infestations has since swelled beyond 150.
“There are 169 confirmed cases in 11 regions throughout New Zealand,” said Carolyn Bleach, response manager for the Ministry of Primary Industries' (MPI) velvetleaf task force. “Canterbury has recorded the highest number to date (88).”
Bleach said the window of opportunity to control plants that haven’t yet seeded is narrowing.
“Farmers and landowners need to maintain a watchful eye until crops have been grazed, particularly as some late emerging plants have been found in crops that have already been inspected,” Bleach explained.
“It’s become apparent that velvetleaf shoots up dramatically when it goes to seed. A plant that may have been hidden by the canopy of the crop one week can appear a week or so later.”
Bleach said MPI is encouraged by the support it has received from a wide range of stakeholders, including industry representatives, regional councils and growers.