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Plant eradication underway in North Canterbury

December 12, 2008





Plant eradication plan underway in North Canterbury  

The discovery of Chilean needle grass (Nassella neesiana) in North Canterbury has prompted Environment Canterbury to commit an estimated $95,000 over three years to an attempt to eradicate the plant pest from the region.

Chilean needle grass is a major problem for dry hill country farmers in Marlborough and Hawke’s Bay. It was recently found on a property north of Cheviot. It is the first known incidence of the plant pest in Canterbury.

“The declaration of a small-scale management programme under the Biosecurity Act allows ECan to control and seek to eradicate the plant pest," ECan’s pests and biosecurity portfolio chair, Cr Eugenie Sage said.

Taking prompt action now to eradicate the infestation helps avoid potential future costs to ratepayers and landholders.”

“Biosecurity staff are working with the landholder to control the infestation and to implement measures to prevent the spread of the pest such as removing plants and bagging them in preparation for burning, and controlling access to and from the affected area,” ECan biosecurity manager, Graham Sullivan said.

“Landholders who believe Chilean needle grass may be present on their property are encouraged to contact Environment Canterbury to have this or any other sighting checked.”

Chilean needle grass produces sharp cork-screw shaped seedheads which catch easily in passing animals particularly sheep and burrow into skin damaging hides and downgrading carcasses. It can be distinguished from nassella tussock (Nassella trichotoma) by the twisted seedhead.

It is unpalatable to stock when seeding and it is safer to remove sheep from infested areas between November and March to avoid contact with seeds.

Chilean needle grass is most likely to be spread by machinery, hay, humans and stock rather than wind because the seeds are heavy and tend to fall close to the plant.

Anyone who has sighted the plant or requires further information should contact Environment Canterbury’s Amberley office on (03) 314 8014.


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