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Cantabrians On The Lookout For Chilean Needle Grass

January 08, 2013


Cantabrians On The Lookout For Chilean Needle Grass

Up to a dozen potential new finds of Chilean needle grass have been reported in Canterbury.

Chilean needle grass (Nassella tenuissima) threatens pastoral and arable farming in Canterbury due to its invasiveness and threat to animal health issues because of its sharp needle-like seed head. It can also cause damage to wool, pelts and meat.

Chilean needle grass has the potential to spread throughout most of the Canterbury region if it isn’t contained within existing sites or if it is left undetected elsewhere.

Environment Canterbury Biosecurity Principal Advisor Laurence Smith says none of the reported discoveries have resulted in any new Chilean needle grass finds being confirmed.

“Biosecurity officers have been able to identify all the grasses suspected of being Chilean needle grass but thankfully they have been common grasses usually found in Canterbury such as bromegrass or Stipa nodosa,” he says.

The likelihood of finding more infestations of Chilean needle grass in Canterbury remains high however. This is due to the 280 hectares that already existed uncontrolled in Canterbury before it was found and the large number of ways the seeds can be transported as well as the difficulty in identifying it correctly.

“Currently there are only a handful of people in Canterbury working in the rural environment that are proficient in identifying Chilean needle grass.

“It is important that land owners remain vigilant for Chilean needle grass, or anything they suspect it could be, while going about their business on their land,” says Mr Smith.

Dried seeds will have a sharp needle like point, with backward facing hairs in the seed head, a long 90mm awn (or tail) that will twist like a corkscrew when drying out. Most of the work to control and contain existing infestations of Chilean needle grass in North Canterbury has been completed for this season.

If you think you may have found Chilean needle grass please contact Environment Canterbury on 0800 324 636.


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