The Foundation for Arable Research (FAR) is an applied research and information transfer organisation responsible primarily to New Zealand arable growers.
The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has formally agreed to allow the release of a tiny Samurai wasp into New Zealand, in the event of a brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) incursion.
BMSB Council Chair Alan Pollard applauded the outcome as a major milestone against one of the greatest threats to New Zealand industry and urban communities.
“The industry greatly appreciates the positive decision and acknowledges the consideration given by the EPA to the significant number of submissions made on the application. This is a significant step towards preparing for a major biosecurity risk, which is getting greater by the day, with increasing trade and tourism crossing our borders,” he said.
The Samurai wasp is the size of a poppy seed and completely harmless to humans and animals, but a natural enemy of BMSB; the female wasp lays her eggs inside those of the stink bug, killing the larvae in the process. Studies overseas have shown that the wasp can destroy over 70 percent of the eggs in a stink bug egg mass.
“The stink bug could cause hundreds of millions of dollars of losses for our industry, as well as seriously damaging quality of life for all New Zealanders.
“With the heightened awareness of biosecurity risk across New Zealand, our industry is more aware than ever that we cannot afford to be, and never will be, complacent.
“Approving the release of Samurai as a biocontrol is an excellent step but there is more work to do before the wasp is ready to be used as a tool. It’s not the silver bullet and a stink bug incursion would require a multi-faceted approach.
“We’ve seen overseas growers rely on high levels of insecticide as the primary control for BMSB and, while this wasp provides the opportunity to reduce our dependence on chemicals, a full response will require every weapon in our armoury.”
Permission to release the wasp will be subject to a number of strict controls that will dictate when, where, and by whom it can be released.
BMSB feeds on a huge range of arable and horticultural crops including wheat, maize, peas and beans. A NZIER report, commissioned by the Samurai Wasp Steering Group, has estimated that gross domestic product would fall by between $1.8 billion and $3.6b by 2038 if BMSB became established. It also estimated the horticulture export value could fall by between $2b and $4.2b.
About the BMSB Council
The BMSB Council is a partnership under GIA between industry and government and is responsible for BMSB readiness and response. The Council consists of member organisations (Horticulture New Zealand, Kiwifruit Vine Health, Ministry for Primary Industries, New Zealand Avocado, New Zealand Apples & Pears, New Zealand Winegrowers, Summerfruit New Zealand, Tomatoes New Zealand, Vegetables New Zealand) and observers (Foundation for Arable Research and New Zealand Plant Producers Inc).
The new levy orders for the arable industry came into force this week, following sign-off by the Governor General after last year’s successful referendum.
FAR CEO Alison Stewart says she is looking forward to the next six years of developing FAR’s research and extension focus to ensure all programmes continue to meet the evolving needs of the industry.
"We will continue to maintain a balanced portfolio of production, environmental and social research, and to monitor national and international trends and developments in order to identify issues which may have an impact on arable farm productivity and profitability. Obvious things to consider at present are biosecurity, greenhouse gas emissions, plant proteins and agrichemical availability and use."
Last year’s vote covered all three FAR levies. Results were: Arable crops, 90% support; Maize, 78% support and Cereal silage, 66% support.