Needlegrass invades

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 16:00 09/11/2012
Needle grass
DANGEROUS WEED: The drill-like seeds of chilean needlegrass stick to the wool of sheep and push into the skin of the animal, eventually killing it or making its meat inedible.

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An invasive grass weed species could cost Marlborough farmers $200 a hectare if it keeps spreading into the region, Marlborough District Council environmental staff warn.

Its sharp seed heads get caught in the wool of sheep and hides of cattle, reducing carcass quality. The seeds also cause blindness in lambs.

Chilean needlegrass is thought to be present in about 2800 hectares in Marlborough, and its flowering season has just begun.

Council environmental science and monitoring manager Alan Johnson said yesterday that vineyard contractors and seasonal workers, lifestyle block owners, farmers and road maintenance crews all needed to understand the threat posed by Chilean needlegrass and the role they can play in stopping its spread around Marlborough.

Mr Johnson said the weed spread by moving stock or machinery through affected areas, or by people carrying the seed heads on their footwear or clothing.

"It's important that pastoral farmers, vineyard owners, contractors that either own land infested with Chilean needlegrass or work in infested areas always ensure that stock and all machinery and equipment is checked and cleaned of any plant or seed fragments and soil particles before movement," he said.

"Landowners, the general public and rural service organisations all need to be aware of the spreading potential of this pest plant. If we are all vigilant, collectively we can make a difference in reducing the spread."

Marlborough landowners who have no infestations of the invasive weed also have a part to play in ensuring they maintain good biosecurity controls at their farm gate, he said.

"They should check machinery, stock and animal food to see that it is clean before they allow access to their property. Some landowners don't want to bother with this kind of effort but they need to understand the risk to their own property."

MDC FILES : Chilean needlegrass 

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- The Marlborough Express

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