Ettrick farmer Quinten Pringle found a 1m tall velvet leaf plant next to a fodder beet field on his property last week – a noxious plant which could have a devastating effect on crops.
Following the find, the Otago Regional Council (ORC) is advising farmers to keep a close eye on fodder beet crops for the presence of velvet leaf.
“All landowners in the region should be on the lookout for the invasive pest plant,” ORC director environmental monitoring and operations Scott MacLean said.
“The farmer contacted an ORC contractor and the plant was swiftly removed and destroyed,” he said, praising Mr Pringle for spotting the plant and immediately calling the ORC.
Contaminated fodder beet seed was imported into New Zealand in 2015 and velvet leaf plants were destroyed on several South Island farms last year. This is the only find so far this year.
“The plant is an aggressive weed pest plant, potentially affecting many arable crops by competing for nutrients, space and water. Left unchecked, it can completely overrun an area within a few years,” Mr MacLean said.
ORC contractor Lyndon Taylor said Mr Pringle had done a velvet leaf management plan last year after planting potentially contaminated seed lines. There was no velvet leaf on the property last year and the velvet leaf seed must have lain dormant in the soil, he said.
Despite the dense fodder beet plantation it was not difficult to spot the velvet leaf plant’s yellow flowers, Mr Pringle said.