Independent review on M. bovis spread in Wakanui is published

An independent expert review into Mycoplasma bovis infection in Wakanui, mid-Canterbury, shows appropriate steps are being taken to remove infection in the area, says programme director Simon Andrew.

The review was commissioned by the Programme’s partners, MPI, DairyNZ, and Beef + Lamb New Zealand, in mid-2022 after it became apparent that infection was circulating in a small geographical area despite the use of disease control measures, which have proven successful in other areas around New Zealand. Continue reading

Reducing global land-use pressures with seaweed farming

A University of Queensland-led study has shown that expanding global seaweed farming could go a long way to addressing the planet’s food security, biodiversity loss and climate change challenges.

PhD Candidate Scott Spillias, from UQ’s School of Earth and Environmental Science, said seaweed offered a sustainable alternative to land-based agricultural expansion to meet the world’s growing need for food and materials.

“Seaweed has great commercial and environmental potential as a nutritious food and a building block for commercial products including animal feed, plastics, fibres, diesel and ethanol,” Mr Spillias said.

“Our study found that expanding seaweed farming could help reduce demand for terrestrial crops and reduce global agricultural greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by up to 2.6 billion tonnes of CO2-equivalent per year.” Continue reading

Mixture of crops provides ecological benefits for agricultural landscapes

Too few flowering plants in agricultural landscapes often is among the reasons for the decline of pollinating insects.

Researchers at the University of Göttingen have now investigated how a mixture of crops of faba beans (broad beans) and wheat affects the number of pollinating insects. They found that areas of mixed crops compared with areas of single crops are visited equally often by foraging bees. Their results were published in the journal Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment.

The researchers observed and counted foraging honeybees and wild bees in mixtures of wheat and faba bean and in pure cultures that only contained faba beans. Continue reading

New Zealand’s red meat sector launches manifesto ahead of general election

New Zealand’s red meat sector has launched a comprehensive package of proposed policy changes, ahead of the general election, aimed at growing export revenues and increasing jobs.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand and the Meat Industry Association’s summary manifesto spans five key areas – climate and environment policy, workforce and industrial relations, trade, biosecurity, and innovation,research and development.

The manifesto has been sent to every Member of Parliament and relevant officials.

B+LNZ chairman Andrew Morrison says the summary manifesto should be compulsory early reading for new Prime Minister Chris Hipkins to inform what policies should be shelved or changed. Continue reading

Scientists provide an update on their myrtle rust research

Three years into the Beyond Myrtle Rust research programme, Manaaki Whenua reports its researchers are moving into a key phase. Studies to understand the ecosystem impact of the disease have produced a substantial body of data, and researchers are now heading to the genetic laboratory, and to analysis and reporting

Senior Researcher Dr James McCarthy says the role that some Myrtaceae species, such as ramarama, play within a forest ecosystem is largely unknown.

“Unless you know how Myrtaceae species contribute to the functioning of New Zealand forests, you don’t know what the impact will be if we start to lose them.”

James says very little was known about some of New Zealand’s 28 native Myrtaceae species, 27 of which are endemic, before myrtle rust appeared in the country. Continue reading

Researchers launch artificial intelligence app to identify NZ’s wildlife

Isabel Leeming, Communications and Engagement Advisor at Beca, has drawn AgScience’s attention to the TAIAO team’s development of the first comprehensive New Zealand-specific species classifier through Artificial Intelligence (AI).

TAIAO (shorthand for Time-Evolving Data Science / Artificial Intelligence for Advanced Open Environmental Science) is a $13 million programme over seven years funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE).

The programme is a collaboration between the Universities of Waikato, Auckland and Canterbury, Beca and Met Service and includes data scientists, data engineers and environmental scientists.

TAIAO aims to advance the state-of-the-art in environmental data science by developing new machine learning methods for time series and data streams that are able to deal with large quantities of big data in real-time, which are tailored to deal with data collected on the New Zealand environment. Continue reading

Numbers of M.bovis-confirmed properties continue to decrease

The Mycoplasma bovis Programme, led in partnership with MPI, DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb New Zealand, continues to make good progress towards the eradication of the disease from New Zealand.

All properties in the high-risk area in Wakanui, which is under a Controlled Area Notice (CAN), have now been cleared of cattle. Testing will be underway shortly on the properties in the surrounding area. The CAN is on track to be lifted in mid-March.

The number of active confirmed properties has decreased this week with 2 properties now cleared of M. bovis and preparing to return to farming without restrictions. There is one new farm infected with M. bovis which has well-established links to another already infected property. Continue reading

Ant raids are decimating honeybee colonies

Researchers from Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington have demonstrated a link between invasive ant species and increased levels of diseases in bees.

PhD student Jana Dobelmann, from the University’s School of Biological Sciences, led the study, published this week in the journal Biology Letters.

Her research shows that when Argentine Ants invade bee colonies, there are higher levels of Deformed Wing Virus (DWV)—infamous for causing the death of millions of hives around the globe. Continue reading

Quinoa and climate change – ancient grain may be a key crop for climate emergency

Food scientist Fan Zhu’s study of quinoa indicates the crop will be important as humanity faces the climate emergency.  The super food’s tolerance for extreme conditions could make it a key crop, he writes in an article first published by Newsroom (HERE).  His article has been reposted (HERE) by the University of Auckland, which says the article reflects the opinion of the author and are not necessarily the university’s views. 

Quinoa is an ancient seed, originally grown only in the high altitudes of South America’s Andes, where it has been cultivated for thousands of years. Its popularity and price have surged over the past three decades because of health-conscious consumers attracted by its reputation as a “super food”.

After 10 years of research into quinoa and recently publishing the book about it, Quinoa, Chemistry and Technology, I believe quinoa is likely to play a major role in improving food security for a large proportion of the global population, and its tolerance for extreme conditions could make it a key crop for helping humans survive climate change.

Climate change has already contributed to crop failures around the world, especially in parts of Africa, such as Ethiopia, Somalia, and Sudan, as well as in parts of Asia, including India and Pakistan. Continue reading

Wool project aims to put money back in farmers’ pockets

The Ministry for Primary Industries reports that New Zealand strong wool could bring a sustainable bounceback into soft upholstery – and woolgrowers’ bank accounts – through a new project seeking an alternative to synthetic fillers.

The ministry’s Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFF Futures) fund is committing $790,000 over three years to a project led by Wisewool aimed at increasing the market potential of woollen knops – the small, light fluffy balls used as a filler ingredient. Continue reading