Government backs action to drive strong wool growth

The Government is investing to create new product categories and new international markets for the country’s strong wool and is calling on Kiwi businesses and consumers to get behind the environmentally friendly fibre, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor has announced.

Wool Impact, a collaboration between the Government and sheep sector partners under the Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund aims to grow export revenues for wool.  The $11.4 million, three-year programme will result in sector partners contributing $6.9 million on top of the Government’s $4.5 million investment.

“It would be fantastic to see strong wool becoming our first choice of fibre in our homes, schools and businesses. Wool Impact is charged with making it a compelling and affordable alternative to synthetic fibres, and reversing the significant under-investment of the past three decades,” Damien O’Connor said. Continue reading

Government supports innovative dairy sheep sector to scale up

The Government is boosting its partnership with New Zealand’s dairy sheep sector to help it lift its value and volume, and become an established primary industry, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor has announced.

The Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFF) fund will contribute $7.97 million to a $19.94 million developmental programme led by Spring Sheep Co.

The investment is a measure of Government backing for ‘Scale Up’, a new five-year partnership programme with Spring Sheep Milk Co. designed to take the dairy sheep industry from the piloting phase through to an established primary industry. Continue reading

Owners of unproductive land are encouraged to grow ‘black diamonds’

A Bay of Plenty truffle company is sharing the secrets of the industry in a bid to get landowners growing ‘black diamonds’ across the country.

Ohiwa Black Diamond Truffles is receiving more than $155,000 of government funding over three years to share its knowledge with interested growers so New Zealand can grow enough truffles for a robust export industry. The business is also researching and developing new truffle products that incorporate the health benefits of truffles with traditional Māori healing.

The business is run by Ohiwa-based couple Matui Hudson and Annette Munday. Since partnering with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) through the Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund last year, they have held three workshops on truffle growing, with more lined up over the coming weeks. Continue reading

Surface runoff on farms up to five times higher when hill soils are poorly drained

Hill country farms cover more than 60% of NZ’s farm landmass, but – because of their sloping landscapes – the surface runoff when it rains can move sediment and nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus into streams and lakes, too much of which leads to declining water quality.

Researchers compared nutrient and sediment losses in surface runoff when cattle were fed winter hay supplement on two hill country sub-catchments that had different kinds of soil. The catchment with poorly drained soil had nearly five times more surface runoff – and 4.5 times more total nitrogen – than the area with well-drained soil.

The authors say carefully choosing where cattle are fed in winter, such as in areas with better-drained soil, could reduce nutrient and sediment loss at no cost to farmers.

The research was published in the New Zealand Journal of Agricultural Research (HERE). Continue reading

Wilding conifer weedkiller approved

A weedkiller to target wilding conifers has been approved for use in New Zealand, with controls.

Method 240 SL is a herbicide used to control wilding conifers and other woody plants on non-crop farmland, conservation land and recreational parks.

It contains the active ingredient aminocyclopyrachlor, which is new to New Zealand. The United States, Canada, and Australia have previously approved the active ingredient.

Bayer CropScience Proprietary Limited applied to import or manufacture Method 240 SL. The company said the new herbicide has fewer hazards, including much lower risks to people, with lower application rates than other herbicides currently used on wilding conifers.

“The Decision-Making Committee has imposed strict rules for how Method 240 SL can be packaged, labelled, stored, disposed, transported, handled, and used,” said Dr Lauren Fleury, the Environmental Protection Authority’s Hazardous Substances Applications Manager.

“The Committee considers that, with these controls in place, the risks to human health and the environment are negligible, while the benefits to ecosystems and landscapes threatened by wilding conifers will be significant.”

The committee received nine submissions on the application – three supported the application and six opposed it. A public hearing was held on 18 May 2022.

The EPA regulates chemicals and other dangerous goods and substances under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act. Rules are set to safeguard people and the environment.

Read more on the decision on Method 240 SL

Source: Environmental Protection Authority

Search is on for New Zealand’s biosecurity champions

Entries are open for the 2022 New Zealand Biosecurity Awards, which recognise and celebrate the outstanding contributions made around  New Zealand to protect the country against pests and diseases.

Biosecurity Deputy-Director General Stuart Anderson said some New Zealanders don’t realise that the work they’re undertaking in their own backyards plays a critical role in the biosecurity system. From trapping pests like catfish, rats and stoats to disease management in  forests, rivers and oceans, the system is strengthened, he said.

Last year, the highest number of entries in the history of the awards was received,

“… and while competition was high, so was the quality.”

Winning projects included:a world-leading maritime intelligence tool which can detect hitchhiker pests from space, a highly sought after marine biosecurity team in Bay of Plenty, and an ecological restoration project turning retired exotic forestry into a mosaic of sustainable land uses.

“A strong biosecurity system takes all of us. We are grateful to receive continued support for these Awards from our fantastic sponsors – AsureQuality, Eagle Technology, Government Industry Agreement (GIA), Mondiale VGL and New Zealand’s Biological Heritage – we couldn’t do it without them,” said Mr Anderson.

The impact of being a winner at the New Zealand Biosecurity Awards goes beyond the recognition and celebration of the Award’s night.

Last year’s Supreme Winner was Xerra Earth Observation Institute.

“The recognition of Starboard’s work through these awards has been enormously motivating to continue our journey towards science-based benefits for all Aotearoa,” said Xerra Programme leader Moritz Lehman.

“Biosecurity challenges need a team approach and we sincerely thank the intensive co-development support from staff at Biosecurity New Zealand who now use our tool to help protect our maritime border from invasive species.”

The New Zealand Biosecurity Awards categories are:

  • BioHeritage Challenge Community Award
  • New Zealand Biosecurity Māori Award
  • New Zealand Biosecurity Kura (School) Award
  • GIA Industry Award
  • Eagle Technology Local and Central Government Award
  • New Zealand Biosecurity Science Award
  • Mondiale VGL Innovation Award
  • AsureQuality Emerging Leader Award
  • Minister’s Biosecurity Award
  • Supreme Award

Entries close 5pm, 31 July 2022.

To find out more about the Awards and to enter, visit NZ Biosecurity Awards.

Source:  Ministry for Primary Industries 

B+LNZ calls for improvements to latest biodiversity reforms

The Government last week released the exposure draft of the National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity and is seeking feedback. The consultation period closes at 11.59 pm on Thursday 21 July 2022.  B+LNZ has undertaken a preliminary analysis of the exposure draft and has emailed these observations to farmers: 

The Government released updated proposals to the National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity (NPSIB) last week.

The NPS for biodiversity is of particular relevance to sheep and beef farmers given the significant amount of native vegetation on our farms – some 2.8 million hectares, according to research by the University of Canterbury.

B+LNZ, along with other primary sector groups, successfully convinced the Government to pause the initial biodiversity reforms in 2020. Farmers had significant concerns about the proposed rules, particularly around Significant Natural Areas (SNAs) and the potential restrictions on what they could do in those areas. Continue reading

Climate change the issue on which Australians do not want both sides of the argument: new research

Researchers have found Australians do not want both sides of the argument when climate change is at issue. They also found (encouragingly) that the most popular sources of climate change news are scientists, experts and academics (50%).  The findings are reported today in The Conversation in an article by Sora Park, Associate Dean of Research in the Faculty of Arts & Design, Kerry McCallum, Professor of Communication and Media Studies, Director, News and Media Research Centre, and Kieran McGuinness post-doctoral felllow, News & Media Research Centre, at the University of Canberra  They write:

Should journalists always treat an issue even-handedly? Our research reveals that when it comes to climate change, many Australians would prefer they didn’t. For general news, people want news outlets to reflect a range of views so they can make up their own mind about an issue. However, when it comes to news about climate change, four in ten say news outlets should pick a side.

There is a divide driven by political orientation on how people think news outlets should be reporting on climate change. More than half (51%) of those who identify as left-wing and 42% of those who identify as centre of politics say news outlets should take a clear position. In contrast, only 24% of right-leaning audiences say so. Continue reading

Hybrid plant varieties – how they could tackle the challenges of food security and climate change

A recent article posted on Phys.org notes that hybrid agricultural and horticultural crops can play an important role in supporting global food security. They produce higher yields and are often more resistant than non-hybrid varieties to diseases and climate stress.

But no hybrid varieties are available for many crops.

Referencing an article published in Nature Plants, thephys.org article looks into the reasons for this.  It says:

Maize is a globally very important crop, and the use of hybrid varieties is routine. The first type was introduced as far back as 1930. But that hasn’t happened for other major crops such as wheat and cassava. Now, for the first time, a comprehensive study has been done of all the factors that determine whether commercial plant breeders can come up with a hybrid variety. Sometimes there are biological challenges. Often, economic factors come into play.

It’s a uniquely comprehensive survey, published in the journal Nature Plants. The authors of the article are associated with hybrid potato breeding company Solynta and Wageningen University & Research. The lead author is Emily ter Steeg, a Ph.D. candidate in development economics. Continue reading

Ayesha Verrall replaces Megan Woods as science-sector Minister

The science sector has a new Minister after the Cabinet reshuffle announced today.

But this was not highlighted in the Prime Minister’s press statement, which perhaps is a measure of where research and science rank in the Government’s priorities.

Jacinda Ardern explained that she has made changes to her Cabinet line-up following the decision of senior Minister Kris Faafoi to resign from Parliament and Speaker Trevor Mallard’s nomination to a European diplomatic posting.

The changes will take effect following a ceremony at Government House tomorrow afternoon.

The press statement featured these points:

  • Kris Faafoi resigns from Parliament. Kiri Allan promoted to Justice Minister, Michael Wood picks up Immigration
  • Speaker Trevor Mallard to end 35 year parliamentary career in mid-August as he prepares to take up a diplomatic post in Europe. Adrian Rurawhe to be nominated as Speaker
  • Priyanca Radhakrishnan moves into Cabinet and gains Associate Workplace Relations and Safety
  • Kieran McAnulty becomes a Minister outside of Cabinet with a focus on regional issues – picking up Emergency Management and Racing. Duncan Webb to take over as Chief Whip
  • Chris Hipkins takes over Police and passes COVID-19 Response to Ayesha Verrall

Much further down in the statement, the PM says:

“Dr Ayesha Verrall has played a critical role in our ongoing COVID-19 management this term. Having moved from the emergency to the ongoing response now is the right time for her to pick up the COVID-19 Response portfolio. She also picks up Research, Science and Innovation.”

The statement makes no mention of Megan Woods losing – or surrendering – the science portfolio to concentrate on housing responsibilities.

Source:  Prime Minister’s Office