Government backs programme to future-proof Sauvignon Blanc vines

The Government is investing in a seven-year programme led by Bragato Research Institute to help future-proof the sustainability of New Zealand’s Sauvignon Blanc grapevines, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor announced today.

Sauvignon Blanc comprises 87 per cent of the country’s wine exports.

“This new $18.7 million grapevine improvement programme will introduce genetic diversity into our vines, and ensure they continue to thrive in New Zealand conditions,” Damien O’Connor said.

“Anticipated climate change impacts require action now to ensure New Zealand continues to be considered the world’s Sauvignon Blanc capital.

“New Zealand’s Sauvignon Blanc vines are based on one clone, which presents some risk. Developing improved, commercially-available variants of this grape variety will also act as an industry insurance policy against future risks from pests, disease and changing markets.” Continue reading

New Zealand is shown to be well placed to ride regenerative agriculture wave

There is a significant opportunity for New Zealand to position itself to take advantage of the global regenerative agriculture trend, according to market research into consumer attitudes commissioned by Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) and New Zealand Winegrowers (NZW).

But there is a recognition, too, that there is no clear definition of regenerative agriculture globally.

This paves the way for ‘regenerative’ being defined in a New Zealand context.

Although still in its infancy, regenerative agriculture is gathering momentum and is set to become a significant trend in food internationally, says Sam McIvor, chief executive of B+LNZ.

“Brands are beginning to follow the leads of farmers and growers in the support of regenerative agriculture, and while the concept has yet to properly take hold among consumers, this research reveals there is a bright future.

“Fortunately, we believe the majority of New Zealand’s sheep and beef farming practices naturally align with key pillars of regenerative products or production. Continue reading

VineFacts turns 600 – will they be celebrating with bubbly?

VineFacts, produced by scientists at Plant & Food Research and published by New Zealand Winegrowers, provides information on weather and potential disease pressure to help growers make decisions for vineyard management to optimise their crop.

In the mid-1990s, a Technology for Business Growth project was set up in Marlborough that looked at integrated disease management of vines. It looked to compare different spray regimes for botrytis, powdery mildew and downy mildew.

One of the main outcomes was a weekly disease monitoring of blocks and the dissemination of advice on sprays through a publication called Smartfax.

This fax-based service was sent out to a small group of local Marlborough viticulturists and winemakers. Over the years the number of recipients grew and today all New Zealand Winegrowers members have access to it. The name has also changed, from Smartfax to Vinefax to VineFacts. It also changed from being sent out by fax, to being sent out by email and now it is web-based.

Since the 2014-15 season VineFacts has been a national publication covering Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay, Marlborough, North Canterbury and Central Otago. Its content has also expanded to include weather summaries from different weather stations around these districts, vine phenology, yield comparisons from monitored blocks, information of potential botrytis and powdery mildew infection periods as well as pertinent articles of interest.

Over the years, this publication has been financially sustained through subscriptions, the Marlborough Research Centre Trust and the Sustainable Farming Fund.

For the period 1997 to 2014 VineFacts was under the ownership of the Marlborough Research Centre Trust (MRC). With the expansion of VineFacts to a national publication in 2014 the MRC Trust gifted ownership of VineFacts to New Zealand Winegrowers.

NZW now funds VineFacts to be freely available to all members. VineFacts is also supported with substantial in-kind funding from Plant & Food Research and collaborating wine companies.

Dr Rengasamy Balasubramaniam, known to the industry as Bala, was responsible for getting VineFacts off the ground in the 1990s. Rob Agnew, who now leads the project, has been part of the VineFacts team since its inception, joined by Victoria Raw in 2006.

Source: Plant & Food Research

This stink bug must be kept out of NZ – but it has come ominously close in recent days

stink bug.jpg

The strong whiff of a serious economic threat…

Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor’s assurance he won’t let the brown marmorated stink bug anywhere near New Zealand has been welcomed by Horticulture New Zealand President Julian Raine.

But how near is “anywhere near”?

We ask, because three car carriers reportedly have reached New Zealand’s shores with stink bug infestations this month.  All three were turned away.

Cargo was being unloaded off one ship in the Port of Auckland when over a hundred stink bugs were found.

Authorities ordered a halt to discharging – the Japanese ship’s ramp was raised and the vessel sealed.

Several pieces of heavy machinery that could not be put back on the Japanese ship have since been fumigated in New Zealand.

Stink bugs were found, too, on a fourth ship bound for New Zealand.

A Ministry for Primary Industries spokesman has acknowledged there has been a “major jump” in the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) being discovered on bulk carriers from Japan.

“It’s unclear why circumstances have changed, but we have responded to the immediate threat by strengthening our border controls.”

BMSB is a household pest as well as a threat to horticulturalists, emitting an unpleasant and long-lasting odour when disturbed.

The Government has said preventing a stink bug invasion is one of its highest priorities.

The magnitude of the threat was spelled out in this statement from Horticulture New Zealand president Julian Raine, which said the bugs would decimate New Zealand’s $5.6bn horticulture industry if they ever made it into the country.

“Not only will these bugs invade your homes and cars, they will have a devastating effect on New Zealand’s food supply for years to come and have the potential to wipe out most of a crop in bad years. This bug is horticulture’s number one concern. And, as horticulture is the fourth largest primary industries exporter, so the effect is far reaching for all New Zealanders.”

The bug will feed on kiwifruit, berry fruit, pipfruit, summer fruit, grapes, avocados and a number of vegetables including tomatoes, capsicum, eggplant,peas, beans, and sweetcorn.

Mr Raine’s media release included YouTube videos (here and here).

He said the industry supports all measures to keep the BMSB out of New Zealand and was encouraged to hear the Biosecurity Minister say “we will shut down the pathways wherever we find them”.

His organisation represents 5,500 growers who employ around 60,000 people and provide New Zealanders with about 1.800 tonnes of fruit and vegetables every day.

Mr Raine said this  food supply is at risk from the BMSB which has a host range of about 300 plant species and can mate up to five times a day.

In the United States some farmers have reported crop losses of up to 90 percent.

The damage leaves some fruit and vegetables unable to be sold, either as a fresh product or for processing.

“Once the BMSB is established here, the damage is irreversible, long-term and ongoing,” Mr Raine warned.

“We have had NZIER (New Zealand Institute of Economic Research) do some economic modelling which indicates that at a minimum, real GDP could fall by $3.6 billion by 2038, and horticultural export value could fall by $4.2 billion per annum (both relative to projected ‘business as usual’ figures).

“We cannot let BMSB into New Zealand. We want all New Zealanders to be vigilant in keeping this pest out. We will continue to support all measures to protect our fruit and vegetables from foreign invaders.”

New Zealand Winegrowers has applauded the Ministry for Primary Industries’ decisive action in turning back three cargo vessels contaminated with the bug.

It said BMSB is one of the wine industry’s most significant biosecurity risks due to the insects’ potential to impact on both the production and quality of processed red wine.

New Zealand Winegrowers CEO Philip Gregan said a BMSB incursion would significantly affect the wine industry’s export success.

Mr Gregan said his organisation understand the impact of turning the vessels away from New Zealand on vehicle importers, but said this is necessary to protect New Zealand’s biosecurity.

What does it look like?

Adults are about the size of a $1 coin and have:

  • white banding on the antennae
  • alternate black and white markings on the abdomen
  • eggs that are light green, barrel shaped, and found in clusters of 20-30.

You can find out more about BMSB and what to do if you find any here.