Velvetleaf seeds can persist on farms for up to 50 years and can survive digestion and silage processes. It is highly invasive and competes with crops for space, nutrients and water.
It's important farmers remain on the look-out and keep checking their crops until they have been grazed.
What is Velvetleaf?
- A broad-leafed weed 1m-2.5m tall (usually higher than fodder beet crops).
- It has buttery-yellow flowers over summer and autumn, and heart-shaped leaves velvety to touch.
- It has seedlings which grow rapidly and compete for nutrients, water and space.
- It has large numbers of distinctive seed pods, 2.5cm across, with 12 or more segments.
The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and regional councils are working together to develop plans to contain and manage Velvetleaf. For more information visit www.mpi.govt.nz/velvetleaf.
Velvetleaf in maize silage
If you buy your maize silage how much do you know about the crop and where it comes from?
- Velvetleaf seed is not destroyed by the ensiling of maize silage
- Feeding infected maize onto a feed pad will not prevent its spread to the rest of the property
- Velvetleaf seeds can remain viable for 50 years and one plant can produce thousands of seeds
- The biosecurity of your property is your responsibility
If you are buying maize silage you should
- Inspect the crop before harvest
- Ask the seller that the property is velvetleaf free (could be a term in your contract)
- Ask the contractor if they are harvesting from any known velvetleaf properties
- Ensure the contractor is undertaking appropriate machinery hygiene practices
Velvetleaf in crops
Stock can spread velvetleaf seed around the farm and to other properties via their hooves and waste. Keeping stock out of velvetleaf-infested paddocks is the best possible action to avoid spreading this weed.
In most situations this is not feasible, as you have invested heavily in the crop and are reliant on it to feed your stock. Therefore the following approach is recommended.
- If possible, fence off any areas where velvetleaf has been found within a paddock, to keep stock out.
- Leave the animals on the fodder beet as long as possible.
- Consider using holding paddocks to keep stock on for three days, if feasible.
- Record where stock have been for up to a week after grazing, so these sites can be checked in future years.
- Use your usual farm management biosecurity practises, such as cleaning farm machinery before moving it off the farm.
- Deploy the usual weed management measures.
If you find velvetleaf
Photograph it, mark its location and immediately call MPI on its free hotline - 0800 80 99 66.
For farmers who have reported suspected velvetleaf and are concerned about plants seeding while they are waiting for a response from authorities, the following actions could help mitigate risk of seed fall:
Bag it – bend it
- If seed heads are present on the plant, carefully place a large bag (like a fertiliser bag or sack or similar) over the seed capsules and flowers on the plant and tie the bag tightly around the stem. It is important to make sure all seed heads are contained within the bag.
- The velvetleaf plant should then be bent in half so that seeds cannot escape out of the neck of the bag. The plant should remain in place until field staff visit