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United front on yellow bristle grass

United front on yellow bristle grass

5 August 2014

Key agencies and organisations in Taranaki are pooling their efforts to confront the threat to agriculture posed by yellow bristle grass (YBG).

The Taranaki Regional Council, the New Plymouth, Stratford and South Taranaki District Councils, the NZ Transport Agency, Federated Farmers, Dairy NZ and roading contractors are working together to find ways of minimising the impact of the invasive annual summer grass.

“YBG is a prolific seeder and it can produce seeds within four weeks of germination. It can quickly infest areas of bare ground, especially during and following drought conditions, and become dominant in a paddock,” says the Taranaki Regional Council’s Environment Services Manager, Steve Ellis.

“While it is palatable to livestock during the vegetative stage, it has poor nutritive values and stock avoid it after seed heads emerge (usually from mid January to May). Stock health issues are also of concern, as there’s evidence that seed heads can cause lesions and ulcers to the mouths of grazing cattle.”

Mr Ellis says highly productive dairy farms may see their annual feed production reduced by up to 20% as a result of YBG, resulting in increased on-farm costs for supplementary feed and/or pasture renovation.

He says the first step in Taranaki’s YBG campaign is identifying the location of infestations. “We already know about many of them, but we need more information. We’re urging people to call the Council on 0800 736 222, or email biosecurity@trc.org.nz, if they know of an infestation.”

The next stage will be a targeted awareness campaign offering advice and information on controlling YBG.

“The grass is not new to Taranaki. It was first recorded here back in the 1930s,” says Mr Ellis. “But it has been having an increasing and significant impact in recent years and the best way to counter the threat is to be vigilant and to work together in true Taranaki fashion.”

Poor weed hygiene practices are a factor in the spread of YBG from affected properties to “clean” properties.

Wrapped balage and sufficiently fermented silage appear to be effective at destroying the viability of yellow bristle grass seeds.

A guide covering identification and control of YBG can be downloaded at www.trc.govt.nz/yellow-bristle-grass/ or requested from Dairy NZ.

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