4 Nov 2014

More 'needs to be done to stop weeds'

2:06 pm on 4 November 2014

A new research paper written by scientists who are described as horticultural heavyweights is suggesting that agribusiness and farmers need to be more responsible when it comes to developing and growing new pasture varieties to ensure they do not become weeds.

New varieties are bred to be more hardy and stand up to greater extremes - but those qualities also make them harder to control if they go rogue.

And the scientists behind the research, including New Zealanders, says its farmers and agribusinesses who should pick up the tab if pasture varieties do become weeds - not the public.

One of the authors of the Feed or Weed Research paper, associate professor Don Driscoll from the Fenner School of Environment and Society at the Australian National University has put together an online presentation explaining the research and findings.

"New varieties are bred to grow faster, produce more seeds, to tolerate environmental extremes and resist disease.

These characteristics help new varieties establish in pastures but they also provide a boost into natural areas - including new areas that they couldn't reach before.

New pasture varieties have a clear potential to make the existing weed problem worse."

But not everybody is completely convinced by the new research and its findings.

Michael Dunbier is a New Zealand plant breeding and genetics research scientist.

Dr Dunbier believes there are sufficient mechanisms and regulations in place to protect the natural environment from new pasture species and he says it's not just agriculture that could be considered guilty of introducing species that have the potential to become weeds.

"We need to have a reasonably balanced view on what the risks and the benefits are of new plants.

"And in New Zealand I think the Biosecurity Act and HSNO Act enable that so any new plant varieties that are brought into the country whether its for pastures or any other purpose are looked at very carefully and one of the things that is looked at is their potential to become weeds."

He says every industries' plants have the potential to become weeds - so if farmers and agribusiness were to be levied you could argue gardeners and plant barns should too.