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Ryegrass Risks Tackled

20 May 2005 PR 075/05

Ryegrass Risks Tackled

The Grains Council is moving quickly to minimise the risk of herbicide-resistant ryegrass arriving in New Zealand, said council chairman Hugh Ritchie.

Mr Ritchie's comments follow the discovery that a Roundup-resistant strain of ryegrass common in Australia is not on the New Zealand list of regulated weed seeds. News that the seeds are not restricted is at odds with advice provided to the Grains Council by MAF Biosecurity, now Biosecurity New Zealand, in 2003.

“Back then the council asked the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to restrict entry of this grass by classifying it as a regulated weed seed. At that time MAF assured us by official letter* that it was added to the restricted list.

“But, with some surprise and disappointment, we learned recently that MAF did not add the weed to the list. The Grains Council was never officially notified of this. It appears there was a breakdown in communications.”

The weed seeds are at risk of entering New Zealand as a contaminant in imported grain used for processing into animal feed, flour, and other products.

"As a first step, the council wants to obtain more information on the risk imposed by the weed, called lolium rigidum.

“The Grains Council has formally requested that Biosecurity New Zealand assesses the risk by undertaking a 'grow-out' test of weed seeds in imported grain processed into finished products. The grow-out will allow us to better understand the actual risks imposed by this import pathway,” said Mr Ritchie.

A grow-out test involves trying to germinate the weed seeds from the finished product or byproducts of the imported wheat.

“The Grains Council does not want to see this weed become established in New Zealand and will take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that the risk is as close to zero as possible.”

The Grains Council is the grains industry group of Federated Farmers of New Zealand (Inc).

* Excerpt from the letter dated August 27, 2003: "In this regard, MAF advised AFFA (Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry - Australia) that all L. rigidum seeds from Australia will now be regarded as regulated (prohibited) seeds and MAF will immediately modify the import health standards…to reflect the change in status."

ENDS

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