Posts Tagged ‘Plant & Food Research’

Cracking manuka’s genetic code may mitigate the effects of myrtle rust

A nationwide science project that sequenced the manuka genome and is now exploring its genetic diversity may be instrumental in protecting the indigenous plant from the fungal disease myrtle rust.

Using state-of-the-art genome sequencing technologies, Plant & Food Research scientists mapped manuka’s genetic blueprint in 2015 and shared the information with tangata whenua and the New Zealand research community.

The research focus has since moved to using bioinformatic techniques to acquire a detailed understanding of the unique attributes of manuka’s genetic stocks – the data have been gleaned from around 1000 samples of manuka leaf collected nationwide in a collaboration with Landcare Research, the University of Waikato and key Maori partners.

The information generated is providing important scientific insights concerning the distribution and genetic diversity within and between manuka populations in New Zealand.

“A key objective of the project has always been to understand how genetic material is exchanged between manuka populations by pollen and seed dispersal to help whānau and hapū, and the honey industry, to develop unique stories around provenance, and help ensure genetic variation for conservation purposes,” says Plant & Food Research Science Group Leader Dr David Chagné.

“With the arrival of myrtle rust on the New Zealand mainland, we soon realised the need for an additional and more specific conservation application for the project.

“While it’s not clear just what effect myrtle rust will have on mānuka under New Zealand conditions, we should expect differences in susceptibility and resistance across the mānuka populations.

“By using the latest technologies for DNA sequencing and new methodologies for bioinformatic data analysis we can determine which parts of the genome are associated with tolerance.

“This will help us to better predict the potential damage from myrtle rust and determine how fast the various mānuka populations will respond to the disease.

“The data will assist with guiding research priorities for maintaining and protecting diversity in mānuka,” says Dr Chagné.

Research results from the project are expected to be released between June and August this year.

The Maori organisations assisting with stakeholder engagement and commercial support in the project are Ngati Porou Miere, Tuhoe Tuawhenua Trust, Atihau-Whanganui, Taitokerau Miere and Tai Tokerau Honey. The project is funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Big future predicted for bright-skinned White Beauty potato

A new bright-skinned potato, called White Beauty, has been produced from a 15-year breeding programme at Plant & Food Research. It is a cross between the disease-resistant Summer Delight potato and the old multipurpose Australian favourite Coliban.

The result is a bright, versatile potato described as extremely high-yielding.

“White Beauty comes with a lot of promise,” says Plant & Food Research crop scientist John Anderson.

“Not only is it showing itself to be an excellent all-round cooking potato, it has a very nice taste, which we think will prove a real challenge to other potato cultivars in the market.”

White Beauty has a lower sugar and higher dry matter content than many other potatoes in the fresh market potato range, such as Nadine, the most widely consumed white potato. This means it makes a good mash and is great for roasting, as well as being delicious boiled whole, making it a more versatile potato for consumers.

Although marketed as White Beauty, the cultivar name is”Crop39″ and is licensed to Morgan Laurenson Ltd.

The company believes the impressive characteristics of the new cultivar should translate well into wide distribution.

“White Beauty is set to become a serious market contender in the washed and brushed table potato range,” says Morgan Laurenson Managing Director Bill Foster. “From the perspective of both the grower and the consumer, we believe White Beauty has the potential to be a hit.

“The characteristics of White Beauty also bode well for exploring new export opportunities,” says Mr Foster.

Although White Beauty has been bred specifically for New Zealand conditions, it is being evaluated in both Australia and the USA.

It will be commercially available to growers through Morgan Laurenson Ltd from 2017.

New Govt funding for pest and disease research to send apples to Asia

New research funding will support the pipfruit industry in opening the door for apple exports in new high-value Asian markets.

The $4.35 million Apple Futures II programme, funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment and leveraged by pipfruit industry investment, will support the development of new tools to control pests and diseases in the orchard and new systems to remove insects during postharvest.

The programme will build on a relationship spanning more than 20 years between the pipfruit sector and Plant & Food Research in developing integrated pest management programmes for pipfruit growers, securing access to key markets for New Zealand’s pipfruit exports.

“Access to new high-value markets is a priority for New Zealand’s pipfruit sector if we are to realise our goal of $1 billion of exports by 2022,” says Alan Pollard, CEO of Pipfruit New Zealand.

“There are increasingly stringent phytosanitary requirements in these markets, as well as a growing desire by consumers for reduced pesticide use. This funding will allow us to develop new tools and technologies that ensure we can deliver shipments that are free from pests and diseases and with no chemical residues on fruit, maintaining New Zealand’s reputation as a supplier of premium produce.”

Dr Bruce Campbell, COO of Plant & Food Research, said:

 “By understanding the orchard system – the conditions under which diseases develop, when insect pest populations might pose greatest risk and how other organisms in the environment can contribute to controlling these – we have been able to put in place systems that allow growers to deliver fruit that meets the most stringent requirements. This new funding will allow us to ensure that New Zealand apple and pear growers can access key markets in which their fruit commands a premium price.”

New Zealand pipfruit generates approximately $500 million per year in exports, about a third of this from Asian markets.

It is estimated that the growing Asian market will, by 2022, generate close to $500 million annually on its own, representing about 50% of New Zealand’s pipfruit exports.

More information on the current pipfruit integrated pest management programme, Apple Futures, can be found at




High value fungi may offer new industry for NZ

Scientists could open up new opportunities for the New Zealand forestry industry following recent research into the cultivation and commercialization of two edible fungi crops: saffron milk cap (Lactarius deliciosus) and Bianchetto truffle (Tuber borchii).

Plant & Food Research’s Alexis Guerin and Hon. Associate Professor Wang Yun have been investigating the high-value delicacies on a farm in Lincoln with successful and tasty results.

Their work was the subject of a media release this week from Plant & Food Research.

“These crops could be the next innovative gourmet export food product for New Zealand” say Dr Guerin.

“Elsewhere in the world they are highly regarded for their potential health benefits and even support a dedicated truffle-tourism industry”.

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Plant & Food Research scientists honoured

Two Plant & Food Research scientists have been awarded one of the highest honours in horticultural science. Ross Ferguson and Ian Ferguson (no relation) were made Fellows of the International Society for Horticultural Science, the world’s leading independent organisation of horticultural scientists at the 29th International Horticultural Congress in Brisbane.

They join a select group of fellows: just 19 people have been so recognised. A fellow is chosen by the ISHS Council in recognition of outstanding contributions to horticultural science.

Dr Ross Ferguson has undertaken research in kiwifruit for nearly 40 years and is one of the leading authorities on kiwifruit biology.

Dr Ian Ferguson is a leading authority on postharvest science and skilled in the application of scientific knowledge to solve problems of the horticulture industry. He is a former Chief Scientist of Plant & Food Research and now works as Science Advisor to the Ministry of Primary Industries.

The 29th International Horticultural Congress was hosted by the Australian Society of Horticultural Science, the New Zealand Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Science and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community under the auspices of the International Society for Horticultural Science.

Website provides access to bioresource processing technology

 The Bioresource Processing Alliance’s new website provides a gateway to some of New Zealand’s top scientists, engineers and economic specialists in biological resource processing.

The BPA, an alliance between four of the country’s national research providers – AgResearch, Callaghan Innovation, Plant & Food Research and Scion – aims to expand New Zealand’s export opportunities by adding value to biological resources. Many of these resources are low value secondary by-products and waste streams from primary industries.

BPA board chairman Garth Carnaby says  the website will enable businesses and investors to tap into some of the best technical facilities, research and processing knowledge available in the country.

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Food-for-health Challenge scientists will aim to boost NZ exports

The University of Auckland, Massey University and University of Otago, along with Crown Research Institutes AgResearch and Plant & Food Research, are being teamed up for the Government’s High-Value Nutrition National Science Challenge.

The task for the scientists from the five institutions – with other collaborators – is to produce cutting-edge, multi-disciplinary research to help New Zealand companies take advantage of global demand for foods with health benefits.

The ten year challenge is approved with $30.6 million subject to finalisation of contract conditions.

A review at the end of five years means another $53.2 million becomes available for a second five-year period.

Total funding for the High-Value Nutrition Challenge is up to $180.8 million over ten years.

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