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Canterbury farmers urged not to plant contaminated beet seed

20th October 2016

Canterbury farmers called on not to plant contaminated beet seed

Environment Canterbury is supporting the call by the Ministry for Primary Industries for farmers to avoid planting leftover seed from any of the six lines of fodder beet seed imported last year and containing the pest weed velvetleaf.

Graham Sullivan, Regional Leader Biosecurity, said that while local efforts to contain velvetleaf locally earlier this year had been largely successful, the threat is far from over.

“The plant has dropped seed at some sites and these sites will need to be managed for several years. Managing this pest will require a sustained and combined effort over a long period,” Mr Sullivan said. “Not planting contaminated seed will definitely help, and it is illegal to do so knowingly, so farmers should make sure they avoid this.”

Velvetleaf weed has been identified in contaminated fodder beet seed throughout the country and the search is on to find plants and stop their spread.

“Unfortunately Canterbury is the worst affected region in New Zealand with over 500 properties known to have purchased contaminated seed,” Graham Sullivan said. “Successful containment of velvetleaf depends on farmers being aware of the threat and practising on-farm biosecurity.”

Environment Canterbury Chief Executive Bill Bayfield said velvetleaf can have a devastating effect on arable farming. “We are standing alongside MPI and the rural community to deal with this significant problem. The co-operation of the farming community is much appreciated – to a large extent, they will determine our success in containing this pest in Canterbury.”

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Velvetleaf is a serious weed pest overseas, damaging crops. In locations where it is established, it has significant impacts on crop production. An ‘’unwanted organism’’ under the Biosecurity Act, it is an invasive weed that is very successful at competing with crops for nutrients, space and water.

Farmers who suspect they may have velvetleaf on their property should report this immediately to MPI on 0800 80 99 66. Plants should be photographed and their locations marked so they can be found easily again.

For the MPI release, including the types of fodder beet seed affected, go to

Full information, including photos:

On-farm biosecurity:


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