Media release

Velvetleaf discovery highlights need for renewed farmer vigilance

Wednesday 1 March 2017

A Central Otago farmer’s discovery of a 1m tall velvetleaf plant next to a fodder beet crop on his property has highlighted the need for all landowners in the region to be on the lookout for the invasive pest plant.

Otago Regional Council director environmental monitoring and operations Scott MacLean is praising the man for his vigilance. The farmer contacted an ORC contractor and the plant was swiftly removed and destroyed.

Mr MacLean said the plant possibly germinated from last year’s contaminated seed, which was distributed widely throughout Otago.

The Teviot discovery underlined the importance heading into a new fodder beet season of landowners increasing their surveillance and being vigilant for the potential appearance of the pest plant, he said.

ORC is undertaking the preparation of farm management plans for all those affected last year on behalf of the Ministry for Primary Industries to guard against a possible re-occurrence of the infestation of their crops.

Mr MacLean said it was important these farmers worked with the contractor to complete the plans and thoroughly implement them.

An inter-agency operation led last year by the Ministry for Primary Industries and supported in Otago by ORC captured and destroyed many of the pest plants to have infiltrated fodder beet crops.

However, Mr MacLean urged Otago farmers on properties where velvetleaf plants had been removed from fodder beet crops to be vigilant, because it was suspected in a small number of cases that seeds may have dropped from the plants before they were removed, creating the potential for them to germinate.

“Farmers have been excellent at contacting the MPI hotline with their concerns about possibly contaminated fodder beet, but we are asking them to continue to be vigilant not just this season, but over the next few growing seasons,” Mr MacLean said.

“It’s a case of them being really proactive, knowing where the potential contamination is, and at appropriate times of the year, such as now, going back and looking for velvetleaf plants which may have sprung up.”

Mr MacLean said ORC and MPI would provide ongoing education and support for farmers, but the onus was on them to do their own monitoring and reporting.

About Velvetleaf

  • Velvetleaf is an aggressive weed pest plant, potentially affecting many arable crops by competing for nutrients, space and water. Left unchecked, it can completely overrun an area within a few years.
  • The known affected seed lines were imported in 2015 when the pest plant entered the country in fodder beet seed contaminated with velvetleaf seed
  • All farmers who have planted fodder beet seed, regardless of the seed line, should check their crops carefully for velvetleaf
  • A single plant can drop as many as 15,000 seeds
  • Velvetleaf can be spread on farm equipment and with stock movement between properties
  • Full information on how to identify plants and dispose of them is at
  • Velvetleaf discoveries should be reported to the MPI hotline on 0800 80 99 66.
  • An MPI ‘ute guide’ on how farmers can help curb the spread of velvetleaf is available at

Velvet Leaf 


For more information contact

Scott MacLean
Director environmental monitoring and operations
ORC Ph 0800 474 082 or 027 411 9459

Communications contact

Mark Peart
Team Leader Communications – Channels
Ph 0800 474082 or 027 5312620