15 Feb 2011

ERMA asked to approve fungus to fight needle grass

12:48 pm on 15 February 2011

Councils and scientists are hoping that a fungus will help them to nobble a particularly nasty pasture weed that's spreading through farmland in some areas.

Chilean needle grass is a threat to livestock, as well as people. It's difficult to control and produces barbed seeds that can penetrate animal hides and corkscrew their way into flesh and bone.

Marlborough has the worst needle grass problem with 3000 hectares infested. There are also pockets in Hawke's Bay and it infests about 80 hectares in the Cheviot area of North Canterbury.

Marlborough District Council has filed an application with the Environmental Pest Management Authority on behalf of regional councils to import a fungus from Argentina to control the weed

Landcare Research scientist Lynley Hayes says the fungus has been identified as one of the diseases that specifically attack needle grass.

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They hope to have a decision from ERMA in time to import the fungus and start releasing it next spring.

She says the needle-grass threat needs to be taken seriously.

Marlborough District Council has also obtained ERMA approval to import a new herbicide from Australia to help control needle-grass.