Animal and Plant Health NZ appoints crop protection technical adviser

Animal and Plant Health NZ has appointed Jo-Anne Stokes as Technical Adviser – Crop Protection to help its members tackle the hurdles associated with bringing innovative solutions to New Zealand to manage pests and diseases.

Jo-Anne gained an appreciation for these tools in her biosecurity role for the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), where she managed treatments for pests and diseases intercepted at the border.

“It is vital for Aotearoa to have the most effective options for managing up to 15,000 pests and diseases considered direct threats to our economy, environment and way of life,” she says.

“I’ve seen first-hand what can happen when an unwelcome pest or disease invades our country.  Climate change and resistance to treatments will likely see these threats evolve.” Continue reading

Agriculture, biosecurity and science keep their Ministers in new Cabinet line-up

Announcing his new Cabinet today, Prime Minister said it will be focused on core bread and butter issues like the cost of living, education, health, housing and keeping communities and businesses safe.

But the reshuffled team does not require ag/hort scientists to brace for dealing with new ministers in agriculture, biosecurity or research, science and innovation.

The Ministerial List February 2023 shows Dr Ayesha Verrall retains the Research, Science and Innovation portfolio, although her workload has been significantly increased by her promotion to become Minister of Health.

Damien O’Connor retains the portfolios of Agriculture, Biosecurity, Land Information and Trade and Export Growth. 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

Tackling invasive pests using environmental DNA tops the NZ Biosecurity Awards

Exceptional biosecurity leadership and its role in protecting our economic security were celebrated last night at the 2022 New Zealand Biosecurity Awards.

Wilderlab’s innovative technology, eDNA, won the Mondiale VGL Innovation Award, and took out the Supreme Award.

Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor said:

“Wilderlab claimed top spot because of its focus on innovation to protect against a range of biosecurity threats.

“Just a cupful of water is all it takes New Zealand company WilderLab to find invasive pest species.

“The technology developed by Wilderlab detects genetic material in the environment, which means thousands of kilometres of New Zealand’s waterways are being monitored for tens of thousands of species every week.

“Early detection of invasive organisms means we can act quickly to locate and successfully eradicate invasive pest species.”

Continue reading

Culling of cows is planned among measures to target pocket of Mycoplasma bovis infection

The Ministry for Primary Industries announced today it will begin culling cows on a huge feedlot, near Ashburton, which is infected with Mycoplasma bovis.

Stock will be culled on eight farms in the high-risk area.   Six farms in an area designated “at-risk” will undergo increased testing.

Reporting this news, RNZ recalled the Government’s announcement in May that after working to rid New Zealand of the disease, the feedlot was the only infected property remaining.

But two more properties have tested positive since then .

The Five Star Beef feedlot in Ashburton, owned by ANZCO Foods, farms about 12,000 cattle.

Culling will begin on the feedlot in mid-October and nearby farms must be “depopulated” by mid-January, a press statement from  Biosecurity New Zealand says. Continue reading

Australian plan to tackle threat from devastating myrtle rust fungus

A national survey has been conducted to help save Australian native species from the devastating myrtle rust disease.

A national living collections database of myrtle rust-susceptible plant species will be created from the survey, open to those across the and Botanic Gardens Australian and New Zealand (BGANZ) network and beyond with species from the family myrtaceae in their collections.

Myrtle rust spores are microscopic and the disease is spread mostly via wind, but the thousands of spores can also be spread via wildlife, infected plant material, contaminated equipment, clothing and vehicles.

The disease can cause deformed leaves, heavy defoliation of branches, reduced fertility, dieback, stunted growth and plant death.

The wind is believed to have carried spores to this country from Australia, where myrtle rust was first found in 2010. Continue reading

Invasive pests cost NZ more than $12 billion, research shows

Weeds, rodents, stoats, possums, fire ants and other invasive species cost New Zealand about $170 million per year, according to new research by the University of Auckland and the University of Aberdeen in collaboration with CNRS (the French National Centre for Scientific Research).

From 1968 to 2020, the cost was about $12.4 billion, report the researchers, who used a database called Invacost, which was launched in France to boost understanding of the worldwide economic toll of invasive species.

The amounts include damage to agricultural crops, timber products, and human health and the money spent on preventing and managing pest invasions. Continue reading

Lincoln University research centre aims to solve toughest biosecurity challenges

A new Centre of Excellence announced by Lincoln University will bring together more than 100 of the world’s top biosecurity researchers and stakeholders to solve some of the toughest challenges facing the agriculture, forestry and environment sectors in Aotearoa and worldwide.

The new Centre for One Biosecurity Research, Analysis and Synthesis (COBRAS), the first of its kind in the world, will consolidate myriad global efforts to predict and mitigate the impact of invasive weeds, animals and pathogens into a centralised hub at Lincoln University.

The COBRAS multi-disciplinary team comprises highly-respected researchers from the domains of animal, environmental and plant health, Mātauraka Māori, economics and climate change, and is led by Distinguished Professor Philip Hulme, one of New Zealand’s leading biosecurity scientists. Continue reading

Government steps up protections against foot-and-mouth disease

Measures to further protect New Zealand’s economy from foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) continue as the Government focuses on strengthening biosecurity settings, Biosecurity and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said today.

Biosecurity New Zealand this week will begin using foot mats with disinfecting chemicals for arrivals from Indonesia to step on to in a trial to help ensure their footwear is clean of the virus.  This will add another layer of protection to the measures introduced last week.

“With FMD recently found in the tourist hotspot of Bali, we’ve taken concrete steps to boost our work at the border in recent weeks including a public awareness campaign,” Mr O’Connor said.

I call on everyone to be vigilant in playing their part to protect New Zealand’s economic security.”

Recent measures to protect against FMD, include: Continue reading

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