Dairy SolutioNZ develops new heat tolerant cow to thrive in low tropics

Hamilton-based Dairy Solutionz Ltd has led an expert genetics team to develop a dairy cow breed conditioned to thrive in lower elevation tropical climates and achieve high milk production under heat stress.

Dairy Solutionz chief executive Derek Fairweather said the  new composite breed will be used on the large-scale dairy farm systems the firm is  constructing in partnership with governments and land owners in countries such as USA, Colombia and Ecuador.

Dairy Solutionz will open its first dairy demonstration farms in Colombia and Ecuador before the end of the year.

The genetics project was supported with Callaghan Innovation funding to develop the new composite breeds, some of whose origins are based on years of research at the University of Florida.

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EPA seeks submissions on new seed treatment

Public submissions have been  invited on an application to import Poncho Votivo, an insecticide for use as a seed treatment in wheat, maize, forage brassicas and grass seed.

The active ingredients of Poncho Votivo are clothianidin (a neonicotinoid) and Bacillus firmus, a non-pathogenic soil-dwelling micro-organism (nematicide).

The Environmental Protection Authority’s submission period will close at 5pm on 27 November. Submissions will be considered by the decision-making committee that decides whether to approve the application.

Poncho Votivo is a reformulation of Poncho, already registered in New Zealand. It has Bacillus firmus added and reduced clothianidin.

Application details and information can be viewed on the EPA website.

If a public hearing is held before the decision is made the EPA will provide at least 10 working days’ notice of the hearing date, time and place to all submitters and the applicant.

The EPA oversees applications under the HSNO Act to import and manufacture hazardous substances. We put controls in place to manage the risks of hazardous substances to safeguard people and the environment.

Further information on submissions and the hearing process can be found at http://www.epa.govt.nz/about-us/have-your-say.


Research paves way for new generation of fungicides

Researchers at the University of Exeter, led by Professor Gero Steinberg, have provided new insights into the mechanism by which pathogenic fungi avoid the immune responses of the plants they attack.

This opens up a new area of research into plant-host interaction which could lead to the development of fungicides that can act before the plant is harmed.

Plants that come under attack from pathogens have an automatic immune response. Fungi get around this plant immunity by injecting proteins into the host plant cells. These ‘effector proteins’ enable the fungi to escape the plant’s immune system and allow the fungal cells to enter the plant unrecognised.

The Exeter scientists found that signalling organelles, known as ‘early endosomes’ act as long distance messengers in the fungi. They travel rapidly along long tube-like cells between the plant-invading fungal cell tip and the fungal cell nucleus. This rapid communication between the point of invasion and the fungal cell nucleus enables the fungus to produce the effector proteins that help evade the plant’s immune response from the moment the fungus enters the host tissue.

This signalling mechanism occurs very early in the fungal infection process, at a time when the fungi are most accessible to fungicide treatment. Disabling the process could result in a new generation of fungicides that are able to act before the fungus has damaged the plant.

Professor Steinberg said:

“Pathogenic fungi are a major threat to our food security – they can devastate crops and cost billions of pounds worth of damage. In fact, losses of wheat, rice, and maize to fungal pathogens, per year, are the same as the annual spend by US Department of Homeland Security – some 60 billion US dollars. As fast growing microbes, fungi adapt rapidly to anti-fungal treatments and so we need to develop new fungicides all the time. Our research has led to a better understanding of the mechanisms by which the intruder attacks and overcomes the plant defence. In order to efficiently protect crops, we must better understand molecular mechanisms like these that occur in the very earliest stages of infection.”

The research was supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

The paper, ‘Long-distance endosome trafficking drives fungal effector production during plant infection’, is published in the journal Nature Communications.

This post is based on a a press release from the University of Essex.  

NZ horticultural science helps Kenyan avocado farmers

Plant & Food Research has completed the first year of a five-year project, working with small-scale avocado growers in Kenya alongside New Zealand company, Olivado.

A key aspect of New Zealand’s increasing engagement with Africa is sharing its agricultural and horticultural  expertise to promote sustainable economic development and support food security.

The New Zealand Aid Programme is providing up to $4 million to Plant & Food Research for the project to strengthen Kenya’s avocado industry.

The goal is to more than double the average return to small holder avocado famers over the next 10 years by improving their yield, shifting to a new variety of avocado tree and improving post-harvest practices.

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Study finds no sign of health or nutrition problems from GMO livestock feed

A scientific review from the University of California, Davis, reports that the performance and health of food-producing animals consuming genetically engineered feed, first introduced 18 years ago, has been comparable to that of animals consuming non-GE feed.

The review study also found that scientific studies have detected no differences in the nutritional makeup of the meat, milk or other food products derived from animals that ate genetically engineered feed.

The university says the review, led by UC Davis animal scientist Alison Van Eenennaam, examined nearly 30 years of livestock-feeding studies that represent more than 100 billion animals.

Titled “Prevalence and Impacts of Genetically Engineered Feedstuffs on Livestock Populations,” the review article is now available online in open-access form through the American Society of Animal Science. It will appear in print and open-access in the October issue of the Journal of Animal Science.

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LUCI is helping with land management and in keeping waterways clean

A computer modelling programme designed by a Victoria University of Wellington academic is helping ensure that farming practices are as sustainable and environmentally friendly as possible.

Dr Bethanna Jackson, from Victoria’s School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences, has developed a land management decision support framework and software package called LUCI. It analyses impacts of changes in the way land is used across a range of ecosystems, and identifies where trade-offs or co-benefits might exist.

“LUCI looks at the way land management can affect a variety of things such as water quality, flood risk, agricultural productivity, greenhouse gas emissions, erosion, or sediment,” says Dr Jackson.

“It looks at everything in a holistic manner—the impact of all those cumulative changes in the way land is managed on a whole variety of different environmental, social and economic functions.

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Potential biocontrol agents against Tutsan are settling into containment

Landcare Research scientists are investigating two small European insects as potential biocontrol agents against the pest plant Tutsan (Hypericum androsaemum).

Tutsan is a significant pest in parts of the Central North Island because it forms extensive patches that take over agricultural, production and conservation land. It is unpalatable to stock, hard to kill, and shade tolerant and is particularly prevalent in areas where the land has been disturbed by the likes of forestry – much like gorse and broom does.

It can be spread by birds and possibly possums as well as soil and water movement and common seed sources include roadsides, farms, wasteland, old gardens, and even roadside mowing. It has been estimated that the cost to land values and cost of production losses due to Tutsan is up to $30 million each year.

Hugh Gourlay from Landcare Research recently travelled to Georgia in Europe to collect specimens of a leaf-feeding beetle (Chrysolina abchasica) and a fruit, leaf and stemfeeding moth (Lathronympha strigana) that are known to attack Tutsan.

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