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Biosecurity Sniffer Dogs Help Marlborough Farmers

Biosecurity Earthquake Recovery Project Sees Sniffer Dogs Help Marlborough Farmers

Farmers affected by the Kaikoura earthquake and struggling with biosecurity issues like Nassella tussock (NT), wilding pines and Chilean Needle Grass (CNG) will soon receive support from some unlikely sources.

Locating invasive weeds amongst pastures in order to control them effectively is time consuming and hard work. But now man’s best friend has come to the rescue. Sniffer dogs trained in Canterbury by scientist Dr Fiona Thomson and dog trainer Geoff Bowers will travel to Marlborough to help locate scattered CNG on farms and vineyards.

Marlborough District Council Senior Biosecurity Officer Jim Herdman says the dogs’ work will be hugely beneficial to local farmers.

“Marlborough District Council biosecurity officers and local contractors spend hours searching for CNG which is a difficult weed to spot. The dogs will be able to sweep larger areas with only a few CNG plants preventing the further spread. It is also hoped that the dogs will, in time be, able to seach and identify CNG in the months when it is almost imposible to identify and locate. This could make control a year round possibility for areas like the Wither Hills Farm Park.”

“The dogs’ sense of smell and their detection of this invasive weed is incredible. The dogs will complement the work the Council is already doing to try and control CNG on farms and vineyeards in Marlborough,” he says.

In addition, working with industry partners, research by Marlborough District Council and Environment Canterbury is underway to find out whether drones can locate CNG. This three-year project, managed by NZ Landcare Trust for the Chilean Needle Grass Action Group, is receiving $260,000 funding from MPI’s Earthquake Recovery Fund. Co-funding of $159,000 for the project has been provided by the Marlborough District Council and the Marlborough Research Centre, along with Canterbury and Hawke’s Bay Regional Councils. Beef+Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ), NZ Wines and farmers are providing $160,000 of in-kind support.

NZ Landcare Trust Project Leader Annette Litherland says this project will work with earthquake-affected farmers to help them deal with their biosecurity weed problems and help develop plans to prevent new weeds establishing on their farms in future.

Working with B+LNZ and Sustainable Winegrowing NZ, the project will also develop protocols for including biosecurity plans into Land and Environment Plans. Workshops will be held to assist farmers in developing these plans. Induction systems for visitors to the farm, including contractors, will also be developed in a bid to reduce the likelihood of new weed incursions.

During the project farmers will be consulted for their ideas on achieving these goals. Farmers or vineyard owners interested in participating should contact either Annette Litherland from NZ Landcare Trust or their local Chilean Needle Grass Action Group.


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