Sightings of plant pest wanted

by Kent Caddick

Selwyn farmers and rural residents are being asked to keep a look out for the invasive plant pest Chilean needle grass over the summer.

It’s early in the Chilean needle grass season, but plants are already in full flower across Selwyn and the wider Canterbury region.

Environment Canterbury’s principal resource management advisor biosecurity Laurence Smith said Chilean needle grass is an invasive pasture pest that reduces crop yields, causes animal welfare issues and places some restrictions on infested farms, such as not being able to make and distribute hay outside of their own property.

“Approximately half of the Canterbury region is susceptible to Chilean needle grass, and around 350 hectares of land is infested across north and central Canterbury.

“Identifying an infestation early will make containing and controlling the pest less expensive and more manageable.

“We encourage any landowners who suspect they may have signs of the pest to contact Environment Canterbury immediately.”

Chilean needle grass is a nationwide problem, with approximately 15 million hectares of land across New Zealand suitable habitat for growth.

Chilean needle grass is most likely to be found where there is less competition from desirable pasture species such as dry hard hill country, areas with light soil, heavily grazed pasture and bare ground.

If people suspect they have found Chilean needle grass they should contact Environment Canterbury immediately on 0800 324 636.

“Please don’t try and tackle the problem alone. We can provide resources and support to affected landowners and offer experience in how best to manage infestations,” Mr Smith said.