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Sunday, April 10, 2016

Velvet leaf panic

I wrote about the "worstest, mostest agressivest weed in the whole world", velvet leaf, Abutilon theophrasti for Get Growing last week. I've been amazed by the reaction to the discovery that velvet leaf is now growing across Southland, having been sown en mass along with fodder beet for winter feed for cows and I suppose sheep. It's not as though there has been an isolated outbreak of velvet leaf from some garden or other, or even a spill from a seed-carrying truck as with the recent black grass in Canterbury. No, this seed was sown on farms all over the region. The Ministry for Primary Industries somehow contrived to source fodder beet through a seed company (hat-tip Ray) from an unusual source and it was "contaminated" with Abutilon theophrasti which grew happily here in Southland and is now setting it's own seeds. Panic has gripped the authorities, along with, I suspect, feelings of guilt and fear at being sued by farmers who stand to lose a great deal of income, should this plant get established here. Hence the huge, sustained and very expensive efforts to seek and destroy the plants. Not much comment in the media about how the situation arose, why the decision was made to import from an infected area and why the seed was not "clean". It's a major botch-up by MPI, I reckon and a very expensive one. Our own regional council is redirecting much of its energies away from its core functions into this search and while we are assured that MPI will pay back what we've had to spend, Environment Southland is losing valuable time in the fight to protect the waters of Southland from those other threats that have long been identified. This is not a good situation to find ourselves in. At all. Here are the PDF versions of my article.


Ray said...

Geez Robert do you ever fact check your writings
First the weed was found in fodder beet crops not brassicas , the seed was imported not by MPI but by DFL NZ the local branch of a Danish Farmers Cooperative. They will have to pay all the costs for having supplied contaminated seed thanks to various trade treaties
It worries me that you can be so wrong on these basic facts but are prepared to leap into print

robertguyton said...

You are right to be worried, Ray! I appreciate your putting those facts in front of me. It seems fair that DFL will be paying those costs, which I expect will be huge, based on the man-hours alone spent searching for the plants. I wonder if they will compensate ES for the time they haven't been able to send on their core work. MPI must have had a role in allowing the seed into the country - surely they have to answer to failing to ensure the seed was what it was claimed, that is, certified free of velvet leaf. Here are a couple of my other concerns; velvet leaf seed can sit un-sprouted and viable for 6+ years (I hope that fact is accurate) so will MPI, ES et al be out next spring, looking for plants again? And the years after that? Also,plants have been found on farms that didn't buy the infested seeds, brought there by contractors who didn't clean their equipment sufficiently well to prevent such transfers. Is that good practice? In this case, surely not. Thanks, Ray, for taking the time to straighten out my ideas on this issue.

robertguyton said...

60 years! The seed can sit in the soil for 60 years!

Unknown said...

I would of thought noone would have the money to pay for the cost of eradication.

robertguyton said...

I'll be very surprised if Ray is correct about the liability of the seed company.I've certainly not heard a whisper about their paying for all this.