NEW ZEALAND - Farmers have been urged to check their crops after the aggressive weed Velvetleaf was found among some crops of certain varieties of fodder beet.
Velvetleaf is a tall-growing weed reaching heights of up to 2m. It has buttery yellow flowers and large velvety heart shaped leaves.
The plant is a serious weed pest in other countries, damaging crops by competing with them for nutrients and water.
Plants and Environment Surveillance Manager Mark Bullians said the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has now positively identified velvetleaf on 10 properties across the South Island and has seven further suspected cases yet to be verified.
"The common denominator is fodder beet crops and, in particular, crops grown from two varieties of imported fodder beet seed.
"Velvetleaf plants are appearing in rows where this fodder beet seed has been drilled and farms concerned have planted either Kyros and/or Bangor seed.
"While we are not certain this is the full picture, we now know that some lines of these two seed varieties are very likely to have been contaminated with velvetleaf seed.
"For this reason we urge anyone who has planted Kyros and Bangor fodder beet seed to check their fields immediately for the presence of velvetleaf. The seed has been distributed mostly in the South Island but some has been sold in the North Island."
The imported seeds met New Zealand's import requirements, which are currently under review.
Farmers were advised not to pull up the weeds or allow cattle to graze infested areas, as the weeds need to be removed carefully by MPI officials to prevent spreading of seeds.
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