Importance of healthy plants celebrated in International Year of Plant Health

Healthy plants’ contribution to New Zealand’s wellbeing and economic sustainability has been highlighted at the launch of the International Year of Plant Health at Parliament.

Healthy plants are the backbone of New Zealand’s wellbeing and make a significant contribution to the economy, said Horticulture New Zealand Chief Executive Mike Chapman.

Horticulture, including viticulture, contributed about $9 billion to the New Zealand economy last year.

Mr Chapman said:

“Fruit and vegetables are essential for healthy people.  However, as many as one in five adults and one in six children in OECD countries are obese* at the same time that one in five children under five are malnourished. Continue reading

Transforming land use – opportunities and challenges

Land use and agricultural system change in New Zealand has traditionally been slow and market driven.  But increasing concerns around environmental issues like greenhouse gases and water quality have resulted in farmers becoming  increasingly interested in low-impact alternative land use systems.

To better understand the potential barriers to land use transition, a collaborative study by scientists at Lincoln University, AgResearch, Plant & Food Research and Scion Research looked of at how land managers make decisions around land use transformation.

Using a multicriteria decision-making (MCDM) framework, the study assessed decision-making around land use in the South Island Central Plains Water Scheme (CPW).

Of the six domains identified as important in land use decision making (financial, market, social, environmental, knowledge and regulatory), the study found no single domain dominated decision making. However, financial considerations were weighted most heavily.

While the purpose of alternative land use systems is to address environmental and social challenges, the results of this study suggest that environmental factors were not at the forefront of land use decision making for this group of farmers, despite their awareness of the importance of environmental stewardship. Hence, without interventions to increase the attractiveness of alternative land use systems which meet the needs of land managers, current decision making is unlikely to lead to large-scale land transformation.

Te study identified other factors of importance to land managers that could provide an opportunity for central government and private sector support to facilitate land use transformation.

Journal Reference:
Renwick A, Dynes R, Johnstone P, King W, Holt L, Penelope J 2019 Challenges and Opportunities for Land Use Transformation: Insights from the Central Plains Water Scheme in New Zealand. Sustainability.

Source:  Plant & Food Research 

Research team is working on greedy algae that are great for our environment

Phosphorus supports photosynthesis, a process which is positive for terrestrial plants. But the same mechanism causes algal growth and the pollution of aquatic ecosystems.

This unwanted effect can be mitigated if the aquatic microalgae fertilised by phosphorus pollution are contained and harvested.

It’s a solution that has global application because microalgae thrive in ponds used by farmers and rural communities around the world to treat their wastewater effluents.

But wastewater treatment ponds do not currently remove phosphorus because the biomass generated during the degradation of organic pollutants can only assimilate small amounts of phosphorus and the biomass itself is not removed following treatment.
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Biosecurity Minister announces world- first eradication of pea weevil

A Government programme to wipe out pea weevil has achieved a world first, with Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor today announcing the successful eradication of the noxious pest from Wairarapa.

This has resulted in the nearly-four-year ban on pea plants and pea straw being lifted today.  Commercial and home gardeners can again grow pea plants and use pea straw as garden bedding material.

Mr O’Connor said there have been no new finds of pea weeviles for two seasons.  Biosecurity New Zealand therefore is confident no pea weevils remain in Wairarapa or New Zealand.
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Public consultation opens for regulation of inhibitors used in agriculture

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is calling for public feedback on options to change the way a category of compounds called inhibitors are managed.

Inhibitors are compounds that can be applied directly or indirectly to animals or a place to inhibit the production of greenhouse gases or reduce nutrient leaching in some way. Common types of application include as feed additives, coatings on fertilisers, or vaccines.

MPI’s director of food, skills and science, Fiona Duncan, says: Continue reading

Climate-driven farming shifts threaten biodiversity and water quality

A warming world will unlock new areas for growing crops, opening the way for farming in regions that were previously unsuitable for agriculture.  But this could significantly impact biodiversity, water resources, and greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, the authors of a new global analysis warn.

Unchecked expansion of farmland into new areas will increase CO2 emissions, reduce biodiversity, and lead to a loss of water quality for hundreds of millions of people, the authors report. They say these frontiers will need careful management to avoid negative environmental consequences.

Lee Hannah, of Conservation International’s Betty and Gordon Moore Center for Science in Arlington, Virginia, and colleagues present a new analysis of these risks in the open access journal PLOS ONE (see  HERE)  Continue reading

A partnership to develop bigger, tastier blueberries and a hop extract to reduce hunger pangs

Blueberries and hops are the focus of two news releases from Plant & Food Research.

First, a new breeding partnership in blueberries is expected to result in premium quality berries being taken to customers around the world.

Second, results from a clinical trial suggest a New Zealand hop extract can help reduce hunger pangs when people are fasting to manage their food intake.

Plant & Food Research and global fresh produce company T& G Global have announced they are entering into a new agreement to breed and commercialise new varieties of blueberries to be sold globally.

The breeding programme will produce new varieties of blueberry that will provide improved yield and resistance to disease while delivering larger, tastier berries over a longer period, with an extended harvest season. Continue reading