MPI calls for proposals to research regenerative farming practices

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is calling for proposals for projects that will investigate regenerative farming practices.

Funding for successful proposals is available through the Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures (SFF Futures) co-investment fund. The fund aims to have projects underway by mid-2021.

“There is increasing interest from farmers and the wider community about regenerative agricultural practices, but definitions for regenerative agriculture can vary dramatically,” says Steve Penno, MPI’s director investment programmes.

“We’re looking to define what regenerative agriculture means from a New Zealand perspective, and develop a sound evidence base to test and confirm what works in our soils, climates, and farming systems.” Continue reading

28 more dairy farms are found to require further M bovis investigations after milk tests

Bulk milk testing for Mycoplasma bovis this month has picked up 28 dairy farms requiring further investigation, RNZ reported today.

Figures from the Ministry for Primary Industries show just one farm is infected with the cattle disease at the moment.  Another 249 farms have been culled of their stock and declared safe to repopulate.

The Ministry’s chief science advisor, John Roche, said the 28 farms detected in this month’s national milk screening had been placed under restricted movement controls while more accurate testing was carried out. Continue reading

MPI postgraduate science scholarship winners are named

The winners of the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) 2020 Postgraduate Science Scholarships were announced today. The six students are all undertaking PhD or Masters research that will benefit New Zealand’s primary industries, from understanding the ‘survival spore’ of kauri dieback, to improving freshwater quality.

The total value for each PhD scholarship is up to $50,000, and each Masters Scholarship is up to $12,000.

The depth and breadth of New Zealand’s new generation of scientists are shown by the diverse range of applications for these scholarships, says Dr John Roche, MPI’s chief science adviser.

He says the scholarships are an investment in the future, with the judges focusing on research that will fill science and skills gaps in the primary industries.

“Our winning students come from universities across the country and all represent the innovative and savvy scientists we want to attract into the sector. Their research will help New Zealand capitalise on the opportunities and mitigate the challenges the primary industries are facing.”

Dr Roche says the scholarships are also an opportunity for MPI to highlight the incredibly diverse range of careers on offer across the primary industries, from fisheries to forestry, agriculture to food and biosecurity.

Along with the funding to help them complete their research, each scholarship winner will also benefit from mentoring from MPI scientists and professional development to help them fast-track their career in the primary industries.

The 2020 science scholarships winners

  • Alex Burton, Massey University (Masters)
  • Katharina Doehring, University of Otago (PhD)
  • Shawn Gerrity, University of Canterbury (PhD)
  • Josie Mainwaring, Victoria University of Wellington (Masters)
  • Izabella Norris, Massey University (Masters)
  • Clarissa Ross, University of Otago (Masters)

Source: Ministry for Primary Industries

Massey University is appointed to research M. bovis impacts on infected animals

The Mycoplasma bovis Programme (the Ministry for Primary Industries, DairyNZ, and Beef + Lamb New Zealand) has appointed Massey University to undertake research into the direct impacts of the cattle disease as part of efforts to help accelerate its eradication.

Massey University researchers will investigate the impact of Mbovis on individual animals and herds within farms known to be infected with the disease, said Dr John Roche, MPI chief science advisor and chair of the Mbovis Strategic Science Advisory Group (SSAG).

“They will measure how M. bovis affects infected animals and herds, including any physical signs, effects on milk yield and composition, and the duration of these effects.”

Dr Roche says this will help accelerate eradication of the disease from New Zealand farms and minimise the negative impacts.

Continue reading

Research aims to find ways of hastening M. bovis eradication in NZ

New research will determine if there is a better way of prioritising the investigation of farms potentially infected with Mycoplasma bovis. This would enable the M. bovis programme to more quickly identify infected farms and take action to accelerate eradication of the disease from New Zealand.

The Ministry for Primary Industries and its M. bovis Programme partners DairyNZ and Beef+Lamb New Zealand have issued a request for proposals from organisations to undertake the Epidemiology Research on Risk Prioritisationproject.

“Farms potentially infected with M. bovis are currently prioritised for follow up (casing) using several criteria. This research aims to determine if there is anything we can do to improve the current system, to enable the Programme to more effectively prioritise farms at high-risk of infection for urgent casing,” explains Dr John Roche, Chair of the M. bovis Strategic Science Advisory Group (SSAG) and MPI’s Chief Science Adviser. Continue reading

Govt’s M. bovis programme to adopt recommendations from reviews

The Mycoplasma bovis Programme has accepted almost all of the recommendations from two reviews into a backlog of trace animal movements, and the surge of activity to process them, in the lead up to Moving Day and winter movements.

The reviews were commissioned to look into the cause, and possible impacts, of the backlog, and to recommend how the programme could improve its systems and processes.

One review was conducted by MPI’s chief science adviser, Dr John Roche, and an independent review commissioned by DairyNZ was conducted by disease management expert Dr Roger Paskin.

Both reviews had the support of Beef + Lamb New Zealand. Continue reading

Evaluation panel to consider funding for Mycoplasma bovis diagnostics research proposals

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), together with DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb NZ, is calling for proposals for the diagnostics research outlined in the Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis) Science Plan.

Accelerating the eradication of M. bovis from New Zealand is the main objective of the science plan and only diagnostics research that will contribute towards achieving this will be funded.

Dr John Roche, chair of the M. bovis Strategic Science Advisory Group and MPI’s chief science adviser, is looking forward to seeing what researchers and companies will put forward in response. Continue reading

Science group to help Mycoplasma bovis eradication efforts

A science advisory group has been formed to strengthen efforts to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis).

Members of the M. bovis Strategic Science Advisory Group will provide strategic scientific advice to the Mycoplasma bovis Governance Group.

Announcing the group’s formation today, the Ministry for Primary Industries says science continues to be critical to the M. bovis response and the advisory group will be a valuable resource to enable current science activities to be scaled up and expanded.

“The advisory group will ensure we have on-going access to some of the best minds and knowledge relating to M. bovis, which will bolster the eradication effort,” says Roger Smith, head of Biosecurity New Zealand and chair of the Mycoplasma bovis Governance Group.

The advisory group will contribute expertise on a range of science matters, including:

  • identifying any critical knowledge gaps and ways to address them, including considering emerging technologies and ideas that may help eradicate M. bovis;
  • prioritisation of M. bovis research efforts;
  • coordination of current and future science initiatives relating to M. bovis;
  • learning from other research programmes in New Zealand and internationally;
  • providing assurance that M. bovis eradication research efforts remain fit for purpose.

Members of the advisory group understand this is an unsettling time for many farmers and are moving quickly, says Dr John Roche, the group’s chair and the Ministry for Primary Industries’ departmental science adviser.

“The group has already identified some key priorities for immediate work, and will hold a workshop in September to get wider input into developing the broader science plan,” says Dr Roche.

Advisory group members –

John Roche – departmental science adviser, MPI (chair).

Glenn Browning – professor, director, Asia-Pacific Centre for Animal Health, Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, University of Melbourne, Australia.

Hamish Gow – professor of agribusiness, Massey University.

Nigel French – distinguished professor, executive director of the Infectious Disease Research Centre, Massey University.

Axel Heiser – senior scientist, immunology, AgResearch.

William McMillan – independent agri-business consultant and scientist;

Kaiārahi Ahuwhenua – Federation of Māori Authorities.

Trish McIntosh – director, North Canterbury Vets.

Roger Ayling – private consultant with extensive M. bovis research experience, United Kingdom.

Cameron Stewart – research scientist, Disease Prevention and Detection, CSIRO.

James Turner – resource economist and senior social scientist, AgResearch.

Shaun Hendy – director, Te Pūnaha Matatini, University of Auckland, complex systems, networks, and mathematical modelling.

Prue Williams – general manager Science System Investment and Performance, MBIE.

Veronica Herrera – director, Diagnostics and Surveillance Services, MPI.

Source:  Ministry for Primary Industries

Science investment to support Mycoplasma bovis fight

The Coalition Government is investing $30 million over two years in scientific research to support the fight against Mycoplasma bovis, says Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor.

The Government would continue to call on all the available domestic and international scientific expertise to track and eradicate the disease. he said.

“This investment will enable us to address the bigger picture scientific challenge and research new tools in the fight against the disease.

“No other country has attempted eradication, and our farming systems are unique, so there are questions that have never been adequately explored by scientists.

“At the top of the list of priorities will be developing a single animal test. This will help us to provide greater clarity to affected farmers, and help us to understand the spread of the disease and to focus our efforts where they are most needed.”

The work will be overseen by a Ministry for Primary Industries’ led Strategic Science Advisory Group.

“The group will work on ensuring we have the tools we need to better manage and understand the disease, so we can be faster, more efficient and more effective in our response to it,” Mr O’Connor said.

The newly-appointed MPI Departmental Science Adviser, Dr John Roche, will assemble and lead the group, which will include both international and domestic scientific expertise.

Dr Roche has a PhD in ruminant nutrition from the National University of Ireland and has most recently worked as a principal scientist at DairyNZ and adjunct professor in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Auckland.

Source: Minister of Agriculture and Biosecurity


New field staff recruited for Mycoplasma bovis eradication programme

The fight against Mycoplasma bovis is escalating with the recruiting of 50 more staff, the establishment of a new field HQ and the appointment of a science adviser.

The science adviser, Dr John Roche, has been tasked with researching new tools for the fight against Mycoplasma bovis.

Twenty-five new Incident Control Point managers entered the field yesterday after completing training this week.

These case managers are appointed to work one-on-one with affected farmers under movement controls, says , Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor.

“They support farmers with information and advice on the practical aspects of the controls.”

A further 25 will undergo training in coming weeks, to boost capacity to help farmers affected by the disease.

The 50 new Incident Control Point staff are additional to the 250 at the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) already undertaking this work.

The ministry’s compensation team was recently increased from 22 to 30 and is expected to double in size as the response progresses.

The ministry has also opened a new Field HQ in Cambridge.

Dr Roche, charged with researching new tools for the fight against Mycoplasma bovis, has a PhD in ruminant nutrition from the National University of Ireland. Most recently he has worked as a principal scientist at DairyNZ and adjunct professor in animal science at Lincoln University.

“He will provide strategic science advice across MPI and his first task will be to head up a new Mycoplasma bovis Science Strategic Advisory Group,” says Mr O’Connor.

“There has been little international investment in science around this disease so the group will look into testing developments to detect Mycoplasma bovis in individual cows, grow understanding of the disease and identify opportunities to support the New Zealand eradication operation.”

His background in Ireland, where Mycoplasma bovis is widespread, ideally placed Dr Roche to lead this work, Mr O’Connor says.

Source: Minister of Agriculture and Biosecurity