Pollinator by night – research review

Plant & Food Research today posted this research update on its website…  

 Concerns over insect population declines and the associated ecological, economic and cultural implications have been widely circulated in the media in recent years. This concern has led to an increase in research on the role of wild pollinators, especially those that contribute to crop pollination…

While honey bees continue to be important managed crop pollinators, a number of wild insects and animals also pollinate crops, including some nocturnal species. Moths, for example, are pollinators for crops like apples and avocados.

A recent paper by scientists at Plant & Food Research, and colleagues at the University of Auckland and the University of Otago, reviewed the research into the role of nocturnal pollinators for crops and medicinally important plants.

The study found that nocturnal pollinators interacted with 52 plant families, including cactus, legumes and plants in the asparagus family. The study also found that 81 animal families were nocturnal pollinators, including species of moths and bats.

The study’s findings suggest that nocturnal pollinators visit a large range of crops and plants of medicinal importance and may be more significant for ecosystem function and crop production than previously understood.

Journal Reference:

Buxton MN, Gaskett AC, Lord JM, Pattemore DE. A global review on the importance of nocturnal pollinators for crop plants.Journal of Applied Ecology DOI: http://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.14284

Source:  Plant & Food Research

New research facility to future-proof New Zealand’s wine sector

A new experimental vineyard in Blenheim will help enhance the supply of quality grapes for New Zealand’s wine sector into the future.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern officially opened New Zealand Wine Centre–Te Pokapū Wāina o Aotearoa in Blenheim today, saying investments like these give cause for optimism for the future.

Economic and Regional Development Minister Stuart Nash said the Wine Centre and the Experimental Future Vineyard confirm Marlborough’s place as the preeminent location for research and innovation for New Zealand’s wine industry, attracting local and international talent.

Funding of $3.79 million for the Marlborough Research Centre to build a national wine centre was announced in 2020, one of the first substantial investments in Marlborough from the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund.

At the opening, a variation to Marlborough Research Centre’s existing funding agreement was announced, reallocating $770,000 of the  $3.79 million investment at their request towards the construction and development of a new state-of-the-art Experimental Future Vineyard. Continue reading

New investment aims to boost soil and freshwater health, and reduce farm emissions

The Government is co-investing in a $22 million programme aimed at significantly reducing agricultural greenhouse gases and nitrate leaching.

Announcing this today, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said the Government has committed $7.3 million over seven years to the N-Vision NZ programme through the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFF Futures) fund.

The programme focuses on three technology streams –

  • N-Retain is a new nitrification inhibitor technology that will look at new ways to block the biological processes in the soil that lead to nitrous oxide emissions and nitrate leaching.
  • N-Test is a new soil test to inform nitrogen fertiliser decisions on pastoral farms, that will help capitalise on the nitrogen already in soil organic matter. This could mean less nitrogen fertiliser needs to be applied.
  • N-Bio Boost is a fungal bio-inoculant to increase nitrogen use efficiency, which will examine how naturally occurring fungi boost the nitrogen efficiency of plants as another way to future-proof productivity.

Continue reading

Aussie wheat is the best? Think again says research group

Plant & Food Research scientists say the notion that Australia has New Zealand beat in growing quality wheat is a myth.

It’s a belief which explains why so many of this country’s commercial bakers use Aussie flour rather than the home-grown product.  But “it turns out the opposite is true”, says Antonia Miller, a business manager at the Crown Research Institute.

New Zealand has been breeding wheat since the 1920s and, Antonia Miller says, the Plant & Food Research breeding programme which has run since the 1990s makes New Zealand’s milling wheat every bit as good, if not better, than the grain grown in Australia. Continue reading

Plant & Food to lead investigation into native honey

Plant & Food Research will be leading a national team of researchers looking at native honey composition and the characteristics that appeal most to consumers, thanks to new funding from the High-Value Nutrition National Science Challenge.

The new two-year project focuses on prominent native monofloral (single flower nectar) honey – predominantly from kānuka, rata, rewarewa and kamahi – produced by Te Pumautanga o Te Arawa (TPT) beekeeping activities on Department of Conservation areas in the Rotorua region.

The project will analyse examples of honeys from across the TPT’s different geographical regions to search for specific chemical signatures and potential unique biomarkers. It will also determine the consistency and flavours of honey that consumers prefer and consumer perceptions of Māori values and provenance. Continue reading

Plant & Food Research and Lincoln University part of game-changing gene discovery

Scientists from Plant & Food Research and Lincoln University have contributed knowledge integral to the discovery of a new gene described as a game-changer for global agriculture.

The gene allows natural reproduction by cloning in plants, allowing highly desirable traits to be carried through to the next generation rather than lost when the plants reproduce through pollination.

The New Zealand scientists have been working with scientists in the Netherlands (at research company KeyGene and Wageningen University & Research or WUR) and Japan (at breeding company Takii) to identify ways to produce plant seeds that are genetically identical to the parent plant.

The research was recently published in the prestigious journal Nature Genetics.

The newly discovered gene, named PAR, controls parthenogenesis, a process whereby plant egg cells spontaneously grow into embryos without fertilisation. Normally, the PAR gene is triggered by fertilisation, but in plants that reproduce by apomixis – a type of reproduction which does not require fertilisation – the PAR gene switches on spontaneously, so the egg cells are triggered to start dividing into a new embryo. Continue reading

Northland peanut industry is taken one step closer

A recent government-backed project proved that peanuts can be grown successfully in Northland.  Additional government funding is now facilitating the next step towards commercialisation.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is contributing nearly $700,000 to a new peanut growing trial through its Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund (SFF Futures), with an additional $300,000 in cash and in-kind support from Northland Inc, Picot Productions, Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, Plant & Food Research, and local Northland landowners.

“The findings of a six-month feasibility study we supported through SFF Futures late last year were encouraging,” says Steve Penno, MPI’s director of investment programmes.

“This new project will build upon the initial findings to determine whether it’s financially viable to plant, harvest, and process peanuts at scale.” Continue reading

Research to breed low-methane livestock and Plant & Food scientists are recognised    

The work of AgResearch scientists to successfully breed low methane emitting sheep, as a tool to combat climate change, has been recognised with the Supreme Award at this year’s Science New Zealand Awards.

Science New Zealand represents the country’s seven Crown Research Institutes. The annual awards recognise research excellence at each CRI.

Outstanding research by three Plant & Food Research scientists and teams – an accomplished fruit crop scientist, a consortium working on myrtle rust disease and an emerging researcher looking at foods that support human health – were recognised, too.

Dr Jill Stanley received a Lifetime Achievement Award for her contribution to plant physiology and crop science over four decades. During her career, Dr Stanley has worked on a range of crops in varied locations, including the UK and Spain, collaborated with numerous researchers and growers and now leads a team of 40 people.

Her summerfruit research has focussed on improving practical outcomes for growers by enhancing productivity and fruit quality. Dr Stanley’s work has helped growers use resources more efficiently to lift returns and has delivered quality fruit for consumers. Continue reading

Nutrient analysis of New Zealand-grown peanuts to provide marketing opportunities

The High-Value Nutrition National Science Challenge has invested $45,460 in a project to determine what nutrient composition and health claims for peanut butter made from New Zealand grown peanuts can be made.

Pic’s Peanut Butter (Pic’s), a Nelson-based company, will collaborate with Plant & Food Research to supply samples of New Zealand peanuts for nutrient analysis from growing trials, with support from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund.

Plant & Food Research will analyse the nutritional composition of four samples of New Zealand grown peanuts, and four peanuts grown overseas in Brazil, Argentina, Australia and Nicaragua. The composition will be assessed against Food StandardsFood Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) regulations that relate to nutrition, health and related claims. Continue reading

Researcher Cathy McKenna wins 2021 Kiwifruit Innovation Award

Plant & Food Research’s Cathy McKenna has won the 2021 Kiwifruit Innovation Award for her work to create an effective armoured scale insect management programme for Gold3 (SunGold) Kiwifruit.

Over two seasons of trials, Ms McKenna spearheaded a research team that developed a year-round programme capable of ensuring the high level of scale control required to satisfy market access requirements.

Armoured scale are insects which can cause cosmetic defects on kiwifruit and once populations build up on vines, they are difficult to bring back down.

Ms McKenna is Team Leader, Kiwifruit Entomology at Plant & Food Research. Continue reading