AgResearch's Dr Shona Lamoureaux and Dr Graeme Bourdot (programme leader) and Scion's Dr Michael Watt, examine their potential distribution map of Chilean needle grass, a weed recently discovered in Canterbury that is a threat to livestock farming over more than 1 million hectares in the region
Combating billion dollar weed problem
It is estimated that weeds cost our pastoral industries at least $1.2 billion annually. This has
led to an industry and research partnership to combat the problem.
Crown Research Institutes AgResearch, Scion and Landcare Research, as well as Plant Protection Chemistry NZ Ltd, a privately owned research, advisory and extension
services provider, are working on helping pastoral farmers, forestry owners, and
other primary producers, combat weeds. The programme “Undermining Weeds” is
funded by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology and industry bodies.
Programme Leader, AgResearch’s Dr Graeme Bourdôt says weeds threaten the
sustainability of pastoral agriculture and plantation forestry through losses in yield
and product quality and management practices that do not fit with market
demands and environmental certification schemes. “This research programme brings together the scientific skills needed to provide sustainable weed management solutions at a range of scales; national, regional, farm and paddock.”
Scion brings expertise in the spatial modelling of weeds to predict the potential geographic distribution of weeds, while AgResearch provides expertise in population dynamics and ecology of weeds. Landcare Research brings weed biological control expertise, while Plant Protection Chemistry is applying new understanding of how herbicides behave at the plant leaf surface.
Scion’s Dr Michael Watt says working with the other research providers is beneficial to the forestry industry. “We’re aware of the damage that weeds create, including in some cases causing crop failures, and this systematic co-ordinated scientific approach is having real benefits.”
An example of the importance of the collaboration has been the team’s response
to the discovery of Chilean needle grass in North Canterbury. Naturalised in Hawke’s Bay and Marlborough for more than 100 years, the weed was discovered in North Canterbury in 2008. “Its sharp barbed seeds penetrate the hides and eyes of grazing animals downgrading wool, hides and carcasses and creating serious animal health and handling issues. Our research with Scion has allowed us to estimate that more than 1 million hectares of grassland in Canterbury is at risk of invasion by this weed, and that a programme to prevent its spread is economically justified. This has led to work with Environment Canterbury on a containment programme for the grass” said Dr Bourdôt.
“What has made this work possible has been the strong partnership with AgResearch, Scion, Landcare Research, Plant Protection Chemistry NZ Ltd and the significant contributions from industry partners across the whole primary sector.”
- Dr Michael Watt, Scion