7 Jul 2016

NZ looks to Europe to combat velvetleaf outbreak

6:59 am on 7 July 2016

Staff from the Ministry of Primary Industries travelled to Europe to learn about velvetleaf and how New Zealand may be able to contain the outbreak.

Two staff travelled to Northern Italy to inspect fodderbeat production in the wake of a velvetleaf outbreak in New Zealand.

Velvetleaf in flower

Velvetleaf in flower Photo: Supplied / Waikato Regional Council

MPI's plant imports and exports group manager Steven Butcher visited production fields in Northern Italy and Southern France, major seed companies in the Netherlands and Germany, and certifying authorities in France, Netherlands and Denmark.

Velvetleaf entered New Zealand in contaminated fodder beet seed from Italy and France.

Mr Butcher said the European arable industry had taken the New Zealand outbreak seriously.

"They've already made improvements and changes to their systems but actually they are very professional companies, particularly the processors, they're well established large firms who have got good capability to deal with foreign seeds," he said.

"I think there is a really strong opportunity and possibility of getting a much improved seed quality coming out of Europe. The biggest issue for us is that given that the foreign seed issue in fodderbeet is already at a very low level of contamination in the seed, our concern at this stage revolves around the sampling that is undertaken and whether the sample sizes are sufficient to identify these low levels of contamination."

The ministry should complete a report on the trip and make recommendations by the end of the month, he said.

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