Budget 22 investing in biosecurity for future economic security

The Government is strengthening New Zealand’s biosecurity system as part of Budget 2022 to help protect our vital primary sector and native flora and fauna, Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor announced.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Damien O’Connor visited the national bulk milk testing laboratory MilkTestNZ in Waikato today to mark the success of the Mycoplasma Bovis (M. bovis) programme and announced funding of $42.9 million to bolster the biosecurity system as part of Budget 2022 and $68m over the next year for M. bovis eradication.

“New Zealand’s flora, fauna and livestock are the foundations of our primary sector, economy, rural communities and our economic security,” Damien O’Connor said.

“The world is reopening from the pandemic. With increased travel alongside a warming climate we face challenges from pests and diseases, which requires further investments to strengthen our biosecurity system. Continue reading

Trade Me plant sales are being scrutinised as part of biosecurity project

Plant sales that were transacted on the Trade Me website between 2012 and 2019 are being examined by Maddie Marshall, a Lincoln University PhD candidate, for use in shaping bioprotection schemes and biosecurity responses.

Her research is not specifically looking at pathogen and pest spread, but is structured to identify the volume of plants sold and what suburbs are of highest influence to the sales networks.

“Then, if a pest or pathogen were to emerge that threatened a specific plant variety, the informal plant trade has been pre-characterised and precautions can be undertaken in the most critical places,” Maddie says.

Maddie is part of the Biosecurity Network Interventions project, led by Lincoln University Distinguished Professor Phillip Hulme, and features in a new article on the Bioheritage NZ website.  .

Her work involves examining three different plant trade systems within New Zealand: forestry, nurseries, and the Trade Me transactions. Continue reading

Science and research were mentioned in the Budget speech – but the ag/hort sector had to hunt for something for them

We listened closely for a mention of “science” in the Budget speech.

If we had triumphantly downed a glass of our favourite tipple to celebrate, each time the word was dropped into Finance Minister Grant  Robertson’s carefully crafted text, we could have driven off afterwards and – if stopped by the police – would have comfortably passed the breathalyser test.

There was just one mention of “science” and it had nothing much to do with the work of ag/hort scientists.  Rather, it was related to the government’s response to COVID-19.

“It has been recognised around the world as not only a leading successful, science-driven public health response but also as a strong economic response….”

We could have done the same thing, to celebrate each mention of the word “research”, without denting our sobriety.

Again, there was just one use of that word.  Mr Robertson spoke of the government’s goal to diversify and lift the value of what we produce, and to grow the range of places to which we sell our goods and services. Continue reading

New database of 24,000 pests to protect New Zealand

A new online tool, the Official New Zealand Pest Register (ONZPR), launched today, will help protect New Zealand from more than 24,000 biosecurity threats and support exporters selling Kiwi produce to the world.

The register is a one-stop-shop for all pests and diseases regulated in the biosecurity system, particularly those not wanted in New Zealand.

New Zealand is in an enviable position being free from many of the most significant plant pests that could impact on our way of life including New Zealand’s primary sector exports, says MPI’s director of animal and plant health, Peter Thomson.

“Having accurate, up-to-date and accessible information on pest status is critical to rapidly identify and managing pests on imported and exported products. Continue reading

Research projects could provide insights into plant responses to climate change and the spread of invasive ornamentals

One research project that has just received a Marsden Fund Standard Grant will improve our understanding of how land plants adapt to environmental stress and could provide insight into how plants respond to climate change.

Another will focus on finding new methods for managing potentially invasive plant species, investigating why some non-native ornamental plants become environmental weeds and aiming to help forecast and prevent future biological invasion

Dr Kevin Davies, from Plant & Food Research, has been talking about the first of those two projects, to investigate hornwort plants, which are rare for their lack of ability to produce the red flavonoid pigment that is thought to help plants cope with environmental challenges. Continue reading

Science Media Centre consults the experts on the state of biosecurity in NZ

One virus has caught the world’s attention this year, the Science Media Centre reports today.  It’s COVID-19 (for readers who haven’t been paying attention) and the Government yesterday announced further measures to secure the border.  It is increasing the number of defence force personnel supporting the Managed Isolation and Quarantine System and maritime border, further bolstering protections against community COVID-19 spread.

Around 500 more defence personnel will be deployed taking the total to about 990 defence personnel at our managed isolation facilities following ongoing checks and assessments of the managed isolation and quarantine system as part of a continual improvement process.

But the SMC reminds us that the government’s focus (and the media’s) on COVID-19 by no means means efforts to keep New Zealand’s ecosystems safe from other pests haven’t stopped.

The SMC has asked experts to comment on what they think are New Zealand’s biggest biosecurity concerns, and how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected their research.

These fields include:

* Overall views of NZ’s biosecurity threats
* Myrtle rust
* Marine biosecurity
* Freshwater

The SMC received these responses o its questions –

Continue reading

Finding insect pests on apples using odour detection

Plant & Food Research today has reported on research aimed at finding new, low-cost methods to supplement biosecurity surveillance programmes.

Costly surveillance programmes protect New Zealand’s biodiversity and horticulture industry from devastating insect pests entering on imported produce. Detection programmes also ensure the country’s exports are pest-free, a requirement for access to international markets.

This surveillance is challenging, relying mainly on visual inspection of fruit and vegetables that is not always reliable in detecting unwanted pests at the early stages of infestation.

New, low-cost methods are needed to supplement our current surveillance programmes. Detecting odours characteristic of insect infestation is an alternative approach that could be integrated into electronic sensor devices.

In this study, researchers at Plant & Food Research collected odours released by apples that had been deliberately infested with codling moth larvae, one of the main pests present in New Zealand apple orchards. Parallel research relating to Queensland fruit fly was carried out with researchers in New Caledonia. Queensland fruit fly is not established in New Zealand at present but is considered the number one threat to our horticulture sector.

Importantly, the results showed that the pattern of odours could be used to distinguish apples infested with codling moth or Queensland fruit fly from non-infested fruit. These results demonstrate that identifying infested fruit by odour detection is feasible, paving the way for development of electronic sensors, according to Dr Mas, the principal investigator.

Currently Dr Mas and colleagues are looking to use odour detection to screen for the presence of Queensland fruit fly on imported fruit from Australia.  This work is contributing to development of an odorant-based sensor in a project led by Plant & Food Research scientist, Dr Kralicek.

Support for this study was provided by a grant from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs via the Pacific Fund and by Better Border Biosecurity (www.b3nz.org).

Journal Reference:
Mas F, Horner R, Cazères S, Alavi M, Suckling DM. Odorant-based detection and discrimination of two economic pests in export apples. Journal of Economic Entomology 113: 134–143 https://doi.org/10.1093/jee/toz254

Source:  Plant and Food Research

Mycoplasma bovis eradication programme reaches two-year milestone in good shape

The latest technical data shows New Zealand’s world-first plan to eradicate the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis is on track, says Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor.

He recalled that the Government, DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb New Zealand and industry partners made a bold decision two years ago to go hard and commit to a 10-year, $880 million programme to eradicate M. bovis to protect our most important sector and the economy.

“Recent events have shown what an important moment this decision was for our economy,” Mr O’Connor said.

“Had we thrown up our hands and said ‘it’s too hard’ and left this disease to run rampant, I’m not sure our dairy and beef sectors would have been able to weather the economic storm of COVID-19 and the challenges of drought conditions as well as they have.

“Beef and dairy export prices have held up. In fact, there was record demand for our meat. In March total red meat monthly exports topped $1 billion for the first time. This shows that these sectors are well-placed to lead us out of this economic crisis. Continue reading

Biosecurity and conservation jobs for redeployed workers

Up to 160 redeployed workers are set to pick up jobs in 55 biosecurity and conservation projects to get the regional economy moving again, Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor and Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage have announced.

The new projects in Northland, East Coast, Hawke’s Bay and Canterbury are part of the Government’s $100 million redeployment support package announced in March and will tackle the invasive wilding pines, a $4.6 billion dollar threat to farmland, waterways and ecosystems.

“As we rebuild the economy, linking up people and jobs is vital,” Damien O’Connor said.

“This is work that needs to be done and what we’ve done is accelerate projects which also saves money as the cost of removing wilding pines rises by 30 per cent each year. Continue reading

Govt declares NZ coronavirus lockdown – Science Media Centre records expert reaction

We were tempted, here at AgScience, to liken the government’s response to Covid-19 to a biosecurity response.

We found we were not alone in drawing such a comparison.  DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle did the same when he spoke to The Country Early Edition’s Rowena Duncum about the coronavirus outbreak and how it relates to biosecurity threats faced by farmers.

“Dairy and beef farmers will have some grasp of what’s being attempted here on the human side with coronavirus in terms of some of the testing processes and trying to understand the extent of the spread,” he said. 

Fighting biosecurity threats was often a long game as farmers were well aware, after dealing with foot and mouth, Mycoplasma bovis and TB, Dr Mackle said.

He identified two key points when creating a contingency plan.

“What do you do as an individual and how do you work together as a collective?”

Ultimately, the whole community needed to work together.

The community response will be critical to the effectiveness of measures announced by the government today after confirmation of  36 new coronavirus cases  and two previous cases being treated as community transmission. Continue reading