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Making a success of controlling nassella tussock.

November 18, 2009. 


Making a success of controlling nassella tussock.


A survey conducted earlier this year shows strong support for Environment Canterbury’s strategy to control nassella tussock, an invasive pest plant.  Of 3500 questionnaires sent out to land-occupiers in the Hurunui District by Environment Canterbury, 520 (15%) were returned.

The survey gauges understanding of plant pest issues and asks for input on the implementation of the Regional Pest Management Strategy.  The results of the survey help Environment Canterbury’s Biosecurity Section work effectively with the community to manage the control of nassella tussock.

From the returned surveys:

·         85% rated the control of nassella as of high or medium importance

·         72% said that they knew the “grubbing standard” required

·         93% were satisfied with the required standard of control and 76% agreed with the September 30 cut-off for completing control work

·         92% felt that Environment Canterbury’s compliance inspections were instrumental in ensuring land-occupiers meet their control responsibilities

·         80% thought the individual concerned should pay for extra inspections on non-compliant properties

Environment Canterbury pest and biosecurity committee chair Cr Eugenie Sage says that an effective control strategy in North Canterbury is vital.

“If we took our eye off the ball many parts of Canterbury where nassella does not currently occur would be at risk.”

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“The commitment of landholders to ongoing grubbing, good information at the right time to remind newer landholders of the nassella threat and a programme of follow-up inspections are central to progressively reducing the nassella population in Canterbury.”

As part of ongoing efforts to maximise community awareness and participation, Environment Canterbury circulates a newsletter “Nassella News” each spring ahead of the September control deadline.

“The positive feedback from our ratepayers is encouraging but we are always open to ways of improving the way we tackle nassella,” says Cr Sage.

Background information

Nassella was first recognised as a problem in Canterbury in the 1940s and in the 1950s some farmers were forced to abandon their properties because of it.

Nassella tussock is extremely adaptable and grows in a wide range of habitats. It will displace other plant species and is unpalatable to stock. A mature nassella tussock can produce up to 120,000 seeds which are able to disperse over long distances. Seeds can be wind and water borne, carried via animals or human beings (on clothing), on machinery and in agricultural seed and can remain viable in the soil for more than a decade.

The best method for controlling small infestations is by grubbing – the removal of the whole plant, including all root fragments. This should be carried out prior to flowering as once flowers are present, even if the plant is grubbed the seed will still develop and remain viable. All roots should be removed from the ground and excess soil shaken off. Chemical application with a glyphosate product can be useful for dense infestations and should be applied during the growing season.


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