Extending inspection procedures to include imported wildflower seed mixes is not an option open to Ireland as a result of EU regulations, Minister of State Martin Heydon has said.

The comments were made in the Dáil on Wednesday morning, in response to the discovery of blackgrass in wildflower seed mixes raising significant concerns among those involved in the tillage sector.

The highly invasive weed was found in a commercial wild flower mixture that was sown as an experimental plot in Teagasc’s crop research farm at Oak Park in Carlow.

“While the standards for quality and purity of seed and propagating material are implemented at EU level through a suite of EU directives and regulations, the legislation is not applicable to wildflower seeds,” Minister Heydon explained.

“My department strongly advises that only locally sourced wildflower seeds are planted, and my officials are engaging with the industry to ensure locally produced seed is free of blackgrass.”

Severe damage

Wexford Independent Verona Murphy told the Dáil on Wednesday that she first became aware of the issue while listening to an Irish Farmers Journal podcast.

She called on the Department to put steps in place to raise awareness among those who have imported wildflower seeds and the steps to prevent blackgrass from destroying crops.

“Blackgrass is a major problem because it spreads so quickly, and it's herbicide resistant. It's estimated that blackgrass is costing the UK economy nearly £400m and 800,000t of lost harvests every year,” Murphy said.

“If we allow this weed to establish itself here, crop farming will be severely damaged.”