16 February 2016

Bay of Plenty Regional Council staff are excited about the absence of invasive pasture weed African feather grass in Ōpōtiki this season.

 “African feather grass is an unwanted pest plant because it dominates over other pasture grasses and stock won’t eat it,” said Bay of Plenty Regional Council Land Management Officer Tim Senior.

“It’s quite resistant to glyphosate which is the usual herbicide people use on grasses, so it can be hard to eradicate. But this summer, for the first time since control work began, we haven’t found an African feather grass plant in any of the 12 Ōpōtiki infestation sites we’ve been working on,” Mr Senior said.

Mr Senior has been working with landowners and contractors since 2000, to remove the weed from the infestation sites that are located in coastal areas around Ōhiwa and Ōpōtiki. Spraying with a herbicide called haloxyfop has been the main control method.

Mr Senior said the feather grass absence is positive, but it’s too early to declare successful eradication from Ōpōtiki District just yet.

“It can be a difficult weed to find and identify. It’s only obvious during its brief flowering season each Christmas. We’ll need to re-check the infestation sites annually for another five years before we can be certain of success there. In the meantime control is ongoing at a number of infestation sites in other parts of the region, especially around Lake Rotorua,” he said.

Mr Senior said that new pasture weed infestations are a constant risk that farmers need to be vigilant to avoid.

“Like many other pasture pests, African feather grass seeds are easily carried and spread from place to place on animal fur, machinery or in hay. Farmers can protect their paddocks by making sure any machinery or stock they bring to their property is from a safe source and thoroughly cleaned first.

African feather grass has long leaves and a distinctive, long flower head. We keep an eye out for new infestations but we need the public to help by reporting any unusual grasses or other plants to us by calling 0800 STOP PESTS (0800 786 773),” said Mr Senior.

African feather grass was first introduced to New Zealand as a soil binding plant and then used widely in gardens before its invasive habits became well understood.

African feather grass is now classified as a containment pest plant in the Bay of Plenty Regional Pest Management Plan. That means it’s illegal to sell, propagate or distribute it in the Bay of Plenty region. Landowners or occupiers are responsible for controlling African feather grass on their own properties. Regional Council offers advice and assistance with identification and control.