[25 January/Stuff]

Dirty farm machinery has been blamed for a significant jump in velvetleaf cases on Waikato farms in the past 12 months. The number of farms found to have the pest weed jumped from 36 at the start of the 2017-18 farming season to 53.  The growth in the Waikato reflects a national trend, Ministry for Primary Industries data indicating that by the end of 2017/18 season there were 1100 affected properties nationally (with plants found on 236 properties and the others having received contaminated seed). The growth in cases was a result of dirty farm machinery used to harvest maize travelling between farms, Waikato Regional Council pest plant team leader Darion Embling said. The affected farms were a mix of commercial maize crops and dairy farmers growing it as a supplementary feed source. To date, areas affected include the northwest Waikato from Mercer north, Matamata-Te Aroha, Otorohanga and Waikeria. Velvetleaf is one of the world’s most invasive pest plants, producing seeds that were capable of staying dormant for years before germinating. John Sanson, MPI’s Pest Recovery Manager, said he believes numbers would continue to climb over time because it was still early days in terms of its eradication, with the impact assessment showing the pest will have a $0.5 billion a year impact over time.