MAF works with nursery industry to limit pest weed spread

25 February 2008

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry's biosecurity arm, MAF Biosecurity New Zealand (MAFBNZ) is today working in close co-operation with the nursery and gardening industry to limit the distribution of suspected pest weeds through contaminated imported coconut fibre.

A consignment of the fibre (known as coco peat or coir fibre) was imported from Sri Lanka in October last year and went to a potting mix manufacturer for further processing. It was made into a variety of potting mixes and on-sold to around 70 nurseries, plant propagators and growers, mainly in the North Island.

One of those customers noticed sprouting seeds in some of its already potted plants and, along with the supplying company and the Nursery and Garden Industry Association (NGIA), reported the find to MAFBNZ.

MAFBNZ Senior Advisor, Environmental Response, Megan Sarty says from this initial reporting, approximately 15 new-to-New Zealand weeds have been identified. Work is continuing to analyse any potential risk they may pose to New Zealand's environment or primary industries.

"The wider nursery and garden industry is helping MAFBNZ to trace where product has gone and to both recover unused mixes, and treat potentially affected plants."

As a precautionary measure, MAF Biosecurity New Zealand will now require that all imported coir fibre is heat treated on arrival in New Zealand in order to prevent the entry of any further contaminated product. This is an interim measure until longer term management options for this product are assessed.

"MAF is very appreciative of the support being given by the nursery industry in managing this issue," Ms Sarty says.

For further information, please contact:  Annie Wright, Senior Communications Adviser, Ph. 029 894 0654

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