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Chilean Needle Grass

Information on Chilean needle grass, an invasive weed that is found in Hawke’s Bay. We want to help farmers control it and stop its spread.

Chilean Needle Grass

Chilean needle grass is an invasive weed that is found in Hawke’s Bay and we want to help farmers control it and stop its spread. It impacts on farm production and animal welfare, and can be spread easily. the Regional Council Biosecurity staff are working with landowners to manage this pest plant.

What is Chilean needle grass?

Chilean needle grass (Nassella neesiana) is a Total Control (Occupier Responsibility) Pest Plant in the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council Regional Pest Plan 2018-2038​.

Why is it a problem?

Chilean needle grass is an invasive weed that out-competes productive pasture grasses and takes over large areas if left uncontrolled. Its seeds have a sharp, needle like tip which attaches easily to stock and can penetrate skin and muscle. This can cause painful abscesses for the animal, and can lead to downgrading of pelts, meat or wool. The seed can also injure horses and dogs. It is unpalatable to stock when it is seeding (November to January), reducing the stock carrying capacity on a property.

Where is it found?

Chilean needle grass is widespread in Hawke’s Bay and Marlborough, and has been found on a small number of sites in Canterbury. Currently, Chilean needle grass infests approximately 3,700 hectares of land in New Zealand, but has the potential to affect up to 15 million hectares nationwide.

In Hawke’s Bay, Chilean needle grass is found on approximately 130 properties, covering around 550 hectares. Chilean needle grass occurs in Maraekakaho, Bayview, Puketapu, Omakere, Poukawa, Porangahau, Waipawa and Waipukurau.

Current and Potential distribution of Chilean Needle Grass

 Chilean Needle Grass climatic suitability map

How do I identify it? 

Chilean needle grass is an erect, tufted perennial grass that can grow up to 1m in height if left ungrazed.

Chilean needle grass is most easily identified from October to March, when it is seeding. Seeds have a sharp needle like tip with a long twisting awn and are reddish purple in colour early in the seeding period (November), later drying to a golden brown colour (December, January). Chilean needle grass typically grows in dry, sunny areas.

How is it spread?

Chilean needle grass seeds are poorly adapted for wind dispersal and tend to fall close to the parent plant. The seed is sharp, and spreads by attaching itself to anything that brushed past the plant. Animals, people, vehicles, machinery and equipment, soil and contaminated feed can all move Chilean needle grass seed.

What do I do if I think I’ve found it on my property?

If you think you have found Chilean needle grass on your property, or think that you have brought in contaminated seed, stock or feed, report it to Hawke’s Bay Regional Council immediately. A Biosecurity Officer will help you identify the plant and assist with control and containment advice.

To help prevent Chilean needle grass spreading to your property, put basic vehicle hygiene and farm biosecurity practises in place. 

What is the best way to control Chilean needle grass?

Chilean needle grass can be difficult to control once established and a range of chemical and physical control methods may be required. For advice on control methods for your property, contact Hawke’s Bay Regional Council.

What can I do to protect my property from Chilean needle grass?

By implementing farm biosecurity practices on your property you can reduce the risk of Chilean needle grass establishing on your property.

  • Ensure you know what Chilean needle grass looks like and keep a look out for seeding plants from October until February.

  • Make sure any feed that you purchase is free from Chilean needle grass and its seed.

  • Ensure vehicles, machinery and equipment coming onto your property are free from soil and seed. If you are concerned about the hygiene of machinery, equipment or vehicles ask that they are cleaned before entering your property.

  • Before purchasing or grazing stock on your property ask where the stock have come from and if they could have come from a property with seeding Chilean needle grass.

Further Information

For further information on Chilean needle grass or to request any printed material or free Farm Biosecurity signs please contact the Regional Council on 006468338083 or 006468338021 or email us​. You can watch a video about Chilean Needle Grass here. There is more information available from AgPest here.

The Chilean Needle Grass Awareness Programme is a joint programme partnered by Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, Environment Canterbury, Marlborough District Council and the Ministry for Primary Industries. Awareness programme logo with facebook address 2

For regular updates, advice and more information on Chilean needle grass, visit the CNG Awareness Programme Facebook page​.​


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