Thursday, 01 February 2024 11:55

Research identifies weeds as a billion-dollar potential threat

Written by  Staff Reporters
Chilean needle grass has sharp penetrating seeds that cause blindness in livestock, pelt and carcass damage – as well as the loss in pasture quality and grazing. Chilean needle grass has sharp penetrating seeds that cause blindness in livestock, pelt and carcass damage – as well as the loss in pasture quality and grazing.

If nothing was done to stop Chilean needle grass, it could spread through most of New Zealand and eventually cost the country over a billion dollars.

That predication comes following newly published research.

The potential 'sleeper weed' Chilean needle grass (Nassella neesiana) is known to have already taken hold in Hawke's Bay, Canterbury, and Marlborough. It has sharp penetrating seeds that cause blindness in livestock, pelt and carcass damage - as well as the loss in pasture quality and grazing access leading to farm production to take a financial hit.

This weed is one of approximately 22,000 species of introduced plants in New Zealand. The scientific challenge is to identify those that pose an economic or environmental threat before they become widespread.

These sleeper weeds can then be prioritised by authorities – such as regional councils and the Department of Conservation for management to prevent their spread.

“The exciting part is that we now have the ability – through our research – to develop models and tools to identify sleeper weeds,” says AgResearch principal scientist Dr Graeme Bourdôt.

“And predict how and where they will spread in a changing climate and estimate the economic and environmental damage that would result.”

He adds that AgResearch has worked with Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research on analysing various management scenarios for sleeper pests in general.

“We are currently working with regional councils, DOC and the Ministry of Primary Industries to develop a web-based tool that will enable informed decisions about investing in sleeper weed management programmes”.

The newly published research about Chilean needle grass is in the science journal PLOS One, authored by Bourdôt and AgResearch colleague Dr Chris Buddenhagen. The research combined climate niche modelling (to estimate the potential range of the species in New Zealand) and a spread model (to estimate the future economic losses under a “do nothing” scenario) to determine the benefits of stopping its spread.

Under realistic low and high estimates of this weed’s spread rate, where it takes either 201 or 100 years to reach 90% occupation of its potential climatically suitable range covering 3.96 million hectares, the loss to the pastoral sector is $192 million and $1.16 billion respectively.

These losses would justify annual expenditures to prevent the spread of $5.3m and $34m respectively, the research claims.

“This bio-economic modelling reveals that a nationally coordinated approach to managing Chilean needle grass makes best economic sense,” Buddenhagen says.

“This would include surveillance in susceptible regions and control measures in the infested regions.”

More like this

EPA clarifies GMO definition, researchers happy

Researchers are celebrating an Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) ruling that removes restrictions on the use of null segregants- descendants from genetically modified organisms but do not contain genetic modifications themselves.

Norwood appoints new CEO

Farm machinery importer and retailer Norwood has announced the appointment of Aaron Smith as the new chief executive officer of CB Norwood Distributors Limited.

Turkish delight for tractor maker

Late last year saw a lifeline thrown to plus-sized tractor manufacturer Buhler Industries, via its acquisition by Turkish business ASKO Holding.

A handy piece

Handypiece is a fully portable shearing handpiece being used by thousands of farmers and ag workers, in diverse roles across the globe.

Reduce your weed burden

Weed wiping has taken many formats over the last 50 years or more, with some systems achieving much better results than others.


Lower Aus exports, good news for NZ

Australia's dairy import and export mix is "slowly trading places" with export volumes falling sharply in recent years while imports have spiked, according to Rabobank.

Taylor-made for recovery

A year ago, Cyclone Gabrielle wreaked havoc at family-owned Taylors orchard and packhouse in Hawke's Bay.

Covid's urban/rural divide

According to a new study from the University of Otago, there was a visible rural/urban divide in Covid-19 vaccination rates.

Long-term plan needed

Well before Cyclone Gabrielle struck, Richard Burke was advocating for a long-term sustainable infrastructure plan for the Tairawhiti region.


An annual event?

Meat Industry Association chief executive, Sirma Karapeeva, says she hopes that National Lamb Day will now take place every year.

Selling the value of lamb

The meat industry has a job to sell the value proposition of lamb, says Agriculture Minister Todd McClay.

Winning back farmer trust

One year into her role as Beef + Lamb New Zealand chair, Kate Acland is continuing to work hard and…

Tough times on farm

Beef + Lamb New Zealand chair Kate Acland says while farmers are quite positive about the new Government, the economic…

Machinery & Products

Norwood's deal with SKY

Norwood has signed an exclusive New Zealand distribution agreement with the Burel Group for the SKY Agriculture brand.

Killing weed seeds in a single pass

John Deere's X-Series Combine Harvesters can now be complemented by the advanced weed control capability of Redekop’s Seed Control Unit…

» Latest Print Issues Online

The Hound

Bureaucratic insanity

OPINION: The Hound reckons if farmers in this country think they've got a problem with the small-minded officious bureaucrats imposing…

Tone deaf?

OPINION: Your old mate can't believe the absolute brass neck of the directors at Beef + Lamb NZ who are…

» Connect with Rural News

» eNewsletter

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter