Biological control of Field Horsetail

Biological control of Field Horsetail

NZ Landcare Trust launched this community driven project in July 2013, which aims to adopt a scientific approach to the control of Field Horsetail. Funding for the 3 year initiative comes from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) Sustainable Farming Fund (SFF).

The MPI Biosecurity website defines Field Horsetail as a perennial fern ally which if eaten in large quantities is poisonous to horses and has a detremental affect on the condition of cattle and sheep. It also spoils hay, reducing its value on-farm. It grows up to 80cm tall, but dies back in winter. It prefers damp, open ground, particularly along stream and riverbanks, where sandy soils provide perfect conditions for roots to penetrate more than 3 metres deep. While it spreads by rhizomes and small tubers, it is extremely difficult control. From a farmers perspective this makes it a highly undesirable pest plant.

Biological control of Field Horsetail

The Lower Rangitikei Horsetail Control Group (LRHCG), whose members come from the local farming community, NZ Landcare Trust and Horizons Regional Council, successfully applied to SFF for $316,150 to investigate and test biological control options. NZ Landcare Trust is managing the project, with numerous organisations and lanadowners providing co-funding. Horizons Regional Council, Landcare Research and AgResearch are all providing technical Field Horsetail information to assist the project.

This funding will enable LRHCG to contract Landcare Research to carry out investigations to identify what bugs will eat or kill horsetail, test they are safe and then hopefully release them onto farms within the Region. Ultimately this project has the potential to benefit farmers and landowners nationwide.

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