Testing for Mycoplasma bovis is stepped up after new strain identified

Summer testing for Mycoplasma bovis will be stepped up after New Zealand’s nationwide surveillance programme identified a new strain of the disease on one of the four confirmed positive properties, which are all in Mid Canterbury

When announcing this, M. bovis programme director Simon Andrew said recently completed genomic testing from a single property – which was previously confirmed with M.bovis – had identified the strain.

“This strain doesn’t behave any differently than the strain we have been dealing with, and our existing testing will pick it up, as it has done in this case. It doesn’t affect our efforts to eradicate M. bovis from New Zealand.”

Mr Andrew said a thorough investigation was under way into historic pathways, which included recorded and unrecorded animal movements dating back to 2018, imported feed and farm machinery, and frozen semen imported prior to the tightening of import health standards for bovine germplasm. Continue reading

Royal Society honour: Dr Jill Stanley is announced as a 2022 Companion

Dr Jill Stanley BHortSci (Massey), PhD (Griffith), has been announced as a new Companion of the Royal Society Te Apārangi, an honour that recognises outstanding leadership or eminent contributions to promoting and advancing humanities, science or technology in New Zealand.

Jill – who has served on the NZ Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Science’s Council and as its president – has been involved in horticultural research since 1981

 As Science Group Leader, Fruit Crop Physiology for Plant & Food Research, she is a leader in developing science, mentoring others and transferring knowledge that has contributed to the growth of the New Zealand and global horticultural sectors. Continue reading

Pollinator by night – research review

Plant & Food Research today posted this research update on its website…  

 Concerns over insect population declines and the associated ecological, economic and cultural implications have been widely circulated in the media in recent years. This concern has led to an increase in research on the role of wild pollinators, especially those that contribute to crop pollination…

While honey bees continue to be important managed crop pollinators, a number of wild insects and animals also pollinate crops, including some nocturnal species. Moths, for example, are pollinators for crops like apples and avocados.

A recent paper by scientists at Plant & Food Research, and colleagues at the University of Auckland and the University of Otago, reviewed the research into the role of nocturnal pollinators for crops and medicinally important plants.

The study found that nocturnal pollinators interacted with 52 plant families, including cactus, legumes and plants in the asparagus family. The study also found that 81 animal families were nocturnal pollinators, including species of moths and bats.

The study’s findings suggest that nocturnal pollinators visit a large range of crops and plants of medicinal importance and may be more significant for ecosystem function and crop production than previously understood.

Journal Reference:

Buxton MN, Gaskett AC, Lord JM, Pattemore DE. A global review on the importance of nocturnal pollinators for crop plants.Journal of Applied Ecology DOI: http://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.14284

Source:  Plant & Food Research

National supports Government partnership with industry to tackle agricultural emissions

A memorandum of understanding between the Government and agribusiness leaders as part of the establishment of the Centre for Climate Action on Agricultural Emissions – involving am investment of $172 million from all parties to the agreement – was announced by the Government early this week.

This was quickly supported by the National Party .

“The Government needs to work constructively with our farmers to enable them to continue to lead the world in lowering agricultural emissions,” National’s Agriculture spokesperson Barbara Kuriger said. 

“Science and technology will play a big part in that, so government funding should be directed towards progressing innovative developments in this space.” Continue reading

Better for climate does not mean sacrificing quality: new findings

Farmed animals bred for less impact on the climate are as healthy and produce meat quality just as good, if not better, newly published results of long-running research suggest.

New Zealand has been a world leader in the recent development of breeding sheep that belch out less methane – a relatively short-lived but potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.

The progress stems from more than a decade of research by AgResearch scientists – supported by the industry through the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium and Beef + Lamb New Zealand Genetics, and the Government via the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre – proving that some sheep naturally emit less methane as a product of their digestion, and that this trait can be bred for and passed down through generations.

After three generations of breeding, the lowest emitting sheep in a research flock produced close to 13 per cent less methane than the highest emitters, per kilogram of feed eaten. But questions have remained about whether this low methane trait means sacrifices for the health or quality of the animals, including quality of the meat that is derived for export around the world. Continue reading

Additional M. bovis infection reported inside Controlled Area Notice boundary

Another Mycoplasma bovis property has been found inside the Wakanui area of Mid-Canterbury where strict biosecurity measures, including a controlled area notice (CAN), were announced last week to eliminate a pocket of infection in the area

Mycoplasma bovis programme director Simon Andrew confirmed that a property in the red area of the CAN is infected.

Testing is being conducted on another property in the area which is likely to be confirmed infected in the coming weeks, he said.

The CAN, which comes into force on 13 October, is a precautionary measure to restrict the movement of cattle in an effort to stop M. bovis circulating in the area and coincides with the planned depopulation of a nearby feedlot, which is an important next step toward eradication. Continue reading

New research facility to future-proof New Zealand’s wine sector

A new experimental vineyard in Blenheim will help enhance the supply of quality grapes for New Zealand’s wine sector into the future.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern officially opened New Zealand Wine Centre–Te Pokapū Wāina o Aotearoa in Blenheim today, saying investments like these give cause for optimism for the future.

Economic and Regional Development Minister Stuart Nash said the Wine Centre and the Experimental Future Vineyard confirm Marlborough’s place as the preeminent location for research and innovation for New Zealand’s wine industry, attracting local and international talent.

Funding of $3.79 million for the Marlborough Research Centre to build a national wine centre was announced in 2020, one of the first substantial investments in Marlborough from the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund.

At the opening, a variation to Marlborough Research Centre’s existing funding agreement was announced, reallocating $770,000 of the  $3.79 million investment at their request towards the construction and development of a new state-of-the-art Experimental Future Vineyard. Continue reading

Plant breeding: Using ‘invisible’ chromosomes to pass on packages of positive traits

The ideal crop plant is tasty and high-yielding while also being resistant to diseases and pests. But if the relevant genes are far apart on a chromosome, some of these positive traits can be lost during breeding.

To ensure that positive traits can be passed on together, researchers at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have used CRISPR/Cas molecular scissors to invert and thus genetically deactivate nine-tenths of a chromosome.

The traits coded for on this part of the chromosome become “invisible” for genetic exchange and can thus be passed on unchanged. The researchers have reported on their findings in Nature Plants.

Targeted editing, insertion or suppression of genes in plants is possible with CRISPR/Cas molecular scissors. (CRISPR stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats.) This method can be used to make plants more resistant to pests, diseases or environmental influences.

“In recent years, we were able for the first time to use CRISPR/Cas not only to edit genes but also to change the structure of chromosomes,” says Professor Holger Puchta, who for 30 years has been researching applications for gene scissors with his team at KIT’s Botanical Institute.

“Genes are linearly arranged along chromosomes. By changing their sequence, we were able to show how desired traits in plants can be separated from undesired ones.” Continue reading

Ten million hectares of New Zealand have now been S-mapped

S-map Online, a tool developed and regularly updated by Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, has  reached a major milestone: 10 million hectares of New Zealand have now been mapped under S-map’s soil survey programme.

That amounts to around 37% of the whole land area of the country, an increase of 2 million hectares in the past four years, through a partnership between the Ministry for Primary Industries, Manaaki Whenua and 12 Regional Councils.

A further 1.5 million hectares is expected to be completed by 2025.

Over 5500 different soil types have been mapped to date, with information on each soil type freely available on the S-map Online website.

In the past year alone, users downloaded 54,000 soil information sheets.

S-map is currently focused on mapping the farmable land area of New Zealand, with 51% of that land now mapped. Within the farmable area, land that has the potential for multiple types of use now has 68% of its soils mapped.

S-map Online is used by rural consultants, councils, landowners, and others to enable more informed decisions to manage our land within environmental limits.

The soil data are used for crop/pasture management, nutrient budgeting, erosion control, irrigation management, drought resilience, and land valuation.

Source: Landcare Research 

Huge gains for industry in 50 years of deer farming science

From a noxious pest that should be exterminated to livestock providing high value products to the world, the deer industry in New Zealand has come a long way in 50 years – and the research that made it possible is now being celebrated.  AgResearch has posted this article…  

An event next week at AgResearch’s Invermay campus near Dunedin will mark 50 years of deer farming science at the site by AgResearch and its predecessor organisations, always in close partnership with the deer industry and farmers. The half century of research has included major advances in understanding of deer nutrition, health, behaviour and genetics, and in development of products such as venison, velvet and milk that are exported around the world.

Fifty years ago, researcher Ken Drew and veterinarian Les Porter thought it might be a good idea to put some science behind the newly emerging deer farming industry, says AgResearch’s programme leader for Deer Science for Success, Jamie Ward. Continue reading