Queensland fruit fly count is up to eight

An eighth fruit fly has been found in Auckland, but the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) say it remains confident the outbreak can be contained, according to this report at Stuff. 

MPI have found three more Queensland fruit flies in Auckland over the past two days, all of them caught in traps, the report says.

More larvae have also been uncovered in fruit inside the Auckland containment zone but the Ministry said this was not a “game changer”.

All of the flies captured thus far were genetically similar, suggesting there was only one “incursion”.

“MPI remains confident it is dealing with a localised population of fruit fly that can be eradicated.”

A containment zone remains in place around the suburb of Grey Lynn, with people encouraged not to move fresh produce in and out of the area.

This could provide particularly challenging with tomorrow’s big cricket game at Eden Park, and the ministry is urging people not to take fresh fruit to the game. 58 MPI staff will attend the game, checking for fruit and removing about 10 tonnes of rubbish afterwards to minimise the risk.

The report explains that Queensland fruit flies have the potential to cause millions of dollars of damage to the New Zealand fruit industry, reducing the quality of fruit, the price exported fruit commands and potentially leading to great trade barriers for exporters.

Another Stuff report addresses the question: Why are we so afraid of the fruit fly?

The Science Media Centre earlier in the week collected expert commentary on the incursion and its containment. The expert observations can be found here.

Fresher is better when it comes to N in effluent

The fresher the N the better is one of the findings of new research which shows available nitrogen from farm dairy effluent diminishes the longer the effluent is stored.

The study by AgResearch for Ballance Agri-Nutrients is part of their Clearview Innovations Primary Growth Partnership programme. It shows both timing and technique can increase the amount of nitrogen available to support plant growth when farm dairy effluent and manure are used as nutrient sources.

The research was carried out in the Waikato and confirmed earlier findings that the longer effluent is stored, the greater the nitrogen loss that can occur in storage.

Ballance Science Manager, Aaron Stafford, said that in one trial, farm dairy effluent stored for 81 days lost 61 per cent of its nitrogen content, primarily via ammonia volatilisation.

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Cow trampling and nitrate leaching

Sciblogs has posted an interview with 18-year-old Kyle Robertson, a former Palmerston North Boys’ High School student who has been squashing soil with a press and pouring fake cow pee on top.

The idea is to model the effect of cow trampling on nitrate leaching and the work has had some surprising results.

In the interview he explains why his Gold CREST research tells farmers to beware of overstocking on sandy loams.

CREST is an international awards scheme designed to encourage years 0-13 students to be innovative, creative, and to problem solve in science, technology and environmental studies.

The interviews of scheme participants are supported by the Royal Society of New Zealand.

PGP is found to be generally working well

The Controller and Auditor-General, Lyn Provost, has completed an examination of the Primary Growth Partnership initiative, which aims to increase overall investment in innovation and the economic growth and sustainability of primary sector industries.

As at 30 November 2014, the Crown and industry partners together had committed $680 million to PGP. The Crown had committed $322 million to 18 multi-year programmes, $129.5 million of which had been spent up to 30 November 2014.

In her report, Provost says:

PGP got off to a mixed start and initially encountered a number of challenges. In my view, PGP partnerships are now generally working well and the management of them has improved in the past five years. More is required, in particular, to achieve clear, simple, and understandable public reporting on individual programmes and the PGP portfolio.

Six programmes reviewed by the Audit Office have a combined Crown and industry commitment of $491.3 million.

These programmes are showing some encouraging results.

But the report says it is too soon to observe the economic benefits of PGP programmes “and it will be at least five to 10 years before we see the extent to which New Zealand’s primary industries achieve the anticipated economic benefits”.

The business cases of the six programmes examined by the Audit Office showed a range of economic benefits expected to be achieved by 2019 and beyond.

Recommendations for improvements in the management of PGP related essentially to matter of transparency and the need for clearer reporting.

Food Matters and genetic modification

Dr Grant Jacobs, a senior computational biologist, has posted at Sciblogs some thoughts provoked by the Food Matters Aotearoa event at Te Papa.

He notes the organisers’ selected keynote speakers from several groups opposed to genetic modification (GM) with “views that sit on the fringe of the science of the subject”.

Green Party GE spokesperson, Steffan Browning, hosted several of them at an event in Parliament.

Jacobs makes plain his contrary position:

GM is important to all New Zealanders, whether they’ve taken time to understand it or not. It’s more than ‘just’ plants, too.

There is work developing bacteria (or yeast) that can produce biofuels. So-called ‘gene therapy’ has been successfully applied to treat a number of rare illnesses, such as chronic lymphocytic leukemia and beta-thalassemia. Important biological products can be mass produced: insulin for diabetics, for example, is made using genetically-engineered bacteria gown in large stainless steel fermentation vats. This list goes on.

For plants, GM creates small variants of existing plants; it is unable to do the wholesale genetic changes that some older breeding techniques can. Its changes are few and targeted. It can create drought-resistant crops important for coping with climate change. We could develop pines that don’t pollute our landscape and native forests with wilding trees, an accursed nuisance in this country. Crops supplementing dietary deficiencies have been developed and grown, as have crops resistant to disease.


Our legislation regulating GMOs badly needs revision, as last year’s odd blocking of a technique considered exempt showed,[2] but fringe speakers are not a sound guide for new policy. Bleakley and Browning’s cast do not reflect the science on the subject, but advocate opinions at odds with it.

Steffan Browning issued a press release on the Food Matters conference, saying it would be discussing the negative impacts of genetic engineering.


Farmers would know all about the dry summer – but ocean temperatures are up too

Farmers won’t need telling, but rainfall was well below normal (< 50%) or below normal (50-79%) for most parts of the country in January.

It was extraordinarily dry in parts of Northland, Auckland, Taranaki, Manawatu-Whanganui, Kapiti Coast, Wellington, Marlborough, north Canterbury and Central Otago where rainfall totals for the month were less than 10% of their respective January normal.

The information is contained in the the  New Zealand Climate Summary: January 2015 , published today. The full climate summary is here: Climate_Summary_January_2015.pdf

At the same time NIWA has said an international team of oceanographers, including NIWA’s Dr Philip Sutton, has analysed data from ocean-profiling instruments known as Argo floats and found the temperature of the world’s oceans increased steadily between 2006 and 2013.

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$5m to expand Food Innovation Network

Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce has announced that Callaghan Innovation will invest almost $5 million over five years in a project that will expand New Zealand’s Food Innovation Network.

FoodSouth, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Canterbury Development Corporation (CDC), will use the funding to build a food innovation centre and pilot production plant at Lincoln University to support South Island food and beverages businesses.

“The FoodSouth facility will provide South Island-based food and beverage companies with a one-stop-shop range of product development services, expertise, and equipment to help accelerate the development of innovative high-value products,” says Mr Joyce.

“Callaghan Innovation was created to help Kiwi businesses succeed through innovation. Growing innovations into high-value exports in turn helps to grow our economy.”

The Food Innovation Network supports businesses through the product innovation process, from concept to commercial-scale manufactured product that is ready for market.

The new facility is one of four throughout New Zealand – along with Auckland’s FoodBowl, Palmerston North’s FoodPilot, and FoodWaikato in Hamilton – that make up the Food Innovation Network.

Callaghan Innovation is contributing $2.7m in capital funding and up to $400,000 a year in running costs over five years to the FoodSouth facility, with the CDC providing $200,000 a year. Site services and accommodation will be provided by Lincoln University.

The FoodSouth facility is likely to open in mid-2015.




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