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Farmers: be on watch - more Chilean Needle Grass found

MEDIA RELEASE

December 4, 2013

Farmers asked to be on watch after more Chilean Needle Grass found

Farmers and landowners are being asked to keep an eye out for the Chilean Needle Grass (CNG) plant pest which flowers and seeds at this time of year.

The number of affected sites has risen to 14 in recent weeks after plants were found on roadsides near known sites and two plants were found on a property adjoining an affected site.

Environment Canterbury is working to prevent further spreading of the pest, which has the potential to infest an estimated 15 million hectares on the east coasts of the north and south islands.

CNG seeds prolifically and can displace pasture and desirable vegetation leading to reduced crop yield; its seeds catch on passing animals and burrow into the skin (lambs are particularly vulnerable to seeds penetrating their eyes and causing blindness); and it requires changes in farming practices as affected land cannot be used at certain times of the year.

Principal Biosecurity Advisor and manager of Environment Canterbury’s CNG programme, Laurence Smith, says it is critical that the pest is dealt with effectively as further spread would threaten the sustainability of arable and pastoral farming.

Biosecurity officers are actively looking for new CNG sites but, with a lag time between seed spread and establishment, farmers and landowners need to be vigilant and report any suspected sightings as soon as possible.

“Land owners need to take responsibility for farm biosecurity and ensure people visiting their properties follow vehicle and machinery hygiene procedures so spread of Chilean Needle Grass from undetected sites is minimised,” Laurence Smith says.

“It is a challenging task as CNG seeds can easily be spread quickly throughout Canterbury by various pathways including people, stock, vehicles and equipment moving from one property or area to another.

“Environment Canterbury committed more than $150,000 to its CNG work in the last financial year and will spend a similar amount in the 2013/14 financial year. But that won’t be enough on its own and our rural communities need to take an interest and be committed to working with us on this.”

Environment Canterbury has appointed a new co-ordinator, Jenna Taylor, to implement an awareness programme funded by the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Farming Fund, regional and local authorities, Beef & Lamb New Zealand and Teece Family Vineyards.

A video through the Sustainable Farming Fund project funded by Beef & Lamb New Zealand has been produced to help farmers and landowners identify CNG. It can be viewed on the Environment Canterbury website.

Anyone who thinks they may have sighted CNG should contact Environment Canterbury’s Amberley office on 03 314 8014 or its customer service centre on 0800 EC INFO as soon as possible.

ENDS


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