Help stop the spread of Chilean Needle Grass this summer

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

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.

Environment Canterbury’s principal resource management advisor biosecurity Laurence Smith said, “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 are suitable habitat for growth.

Chilean needle grassWhat to look out for

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.

In November and December, distinctive purple seed heads become visible. The seeds are dart like, with a sharp seed head and a long, kinked tail.

Chilean needle grass can spread by movement on contaminated machinery, vehicles, feed and stock. To prevent spread, only allow clean vehicles and machinery on to your property, and make sure any stock or feed brought on to your farm hasn’t come from an infested property.

If you suspect you have found Chilean needle grass, contact Environment Canterbury immediately on 0800 324 636.  Please don’t try tackle the problem alone – we can provide resources and support to affected landowners and offer experience in how best to manage infestations.

For further information about Chilean needle grass, take a look at our managing plant pests page, and follow the Chilean Needle Grass Awareness Programme on Facebook.

Information session for farmers

The Canterbury Chilean Needle Grass Pest Committee is hosting a public meeting on Tuesday 28 November at 4pm, at Mt Beautiful Vineyard, Waiau East Road, Spotswood.  The meeting is for farmers to learn more about Chilean needle grass management in the region, and how to identify the plant in the field.