Tis the season for Chilean needle grass – be on the lookout

Environment Canterbury today urged all Cantabrians in rural areas to be on the lookout for the plant pest Chilean needle grass.

Principal Resource Management Advisor Biosecurity Laurence Smith said December is the best time for this. “At this time of the year Chilean needle grass will be left ungrazed by stock and will be standing out among other pasture,” he said.

Three hundred hectares on14 properties are currently affected by Chilean needle grass in Canterbury. Dense patches on some of these properties, probably caused by the emergence of plants from seed reserves in the soil and the season, are causing concern for both landowners and councils.

“We must all be vigilant at this time of year particularly,” Laurence Smith said. “Control programmes are under way and containment processes have been put in place to prevent spread to other properties.

“Our focus on containment has been very successful because the last two seasons have seen the pest spread to only one new property,” he said.

In addition to keeping an eye out for the distinctive purple seed heads, Environment Canterbury is encouraging landowners to take the time to check some of the most likely locations for Chilean needle grass - stockyards, around woolsheds, the edges of vehicle tracks, dry hill faces or land with less competitive pastures and areas where hay from other properties has been fed out.

“Land at highest risk is where there is suitable habitat and a history of potential vectors or carriers entering it over time such as sheep, hay, vehicles, people, machinery and vehicles,” Laurence Smith said.

“If Chilean needle grass has moved on any of these pathways from a contaminated site, your land may be affected. If you think you have found Chilean needle grass, contact Environment Canterbury on 0800 324 636 immediately.”

Environment Canterbury is working with landowners and the community to contain Chilean needle grass. For resources including free on-farm biosecurity signage, contact Jenna Taylor, Chilean Needle Grass Co-ordinator, 027 839 3878. For more information, including identifiers and maps, go to www.facebook.com/chileanneedlegrass