The New Zealand Herald



A fruit fly warning sign on the corner of Sandringham Road and Royal Terrace. Photo / Brett Phibbs


Officials battling to contain a Queensland fruit fly incursion in central Auckland have ruled out aerial spraying following confirmation of a fourth fly being discovered in traps.

The Ministry for Primary Industries said today that aerial spraying was not the most appropriate treatment and was not being considered as a contingency option if it emerged the pest had established a wider population here.

It comes after a male fruit fly was found in another trap in the controlled area around Grey Lynn last night.

The find brings the total to four confirmed Queensland fruit flies in a week, with three male fruit flies caught in traps, and a single unmated female located at a residential property on Friday. One pupa and 39 larvae have also been found.

A spokeswoman for MPI said they were not considering using a technique in which sterile insects were used to lure out the pesky fruit flies.
“That is used for larger scale infestations, not localised situations,” she said.

Horticulture New Zealand have said the incursion is a “huge worry” but declined to comment further today.

In a statement provided to NZME. News Service, MPI said there was “no consideration of aerial spraying at all” to deal with the potentially crop destroying pest.

“The appropriate treatment, as outlined on our website and in all our media releases, is baiting, using a protein bait that attracts both male and female fruit flies,” a spokeswoman said.

“This contains a very small amount of fipronil insecticide, which is an insecticide used most commonly in pet flea collars.

“On occasions where plants are found to be infested with Queensland fruit fly (identified from fruit inspections), cover spray will be applied to these infested plants using a ground-based applicator. Bifenthrin is the insecticide that will be used in this situation.

“This treatment is safe for use in residential areas because it has been proven to do no harm to people, or animals such as family pets or livestock. Because of this it is one of the most common insect treatments found in products sold in supermarkets and hardware stores.”

The statement will ease fears among those worried the ministry might spray large swathes of Auckland if it is found the pest has established a population here.

Aerial spraying campaigns were used in 1996 to eradicate the white-spotted tussock moth in Auckland’s eastern suburbs and, between 1999 and 2003 against the painted apple moth in the western suburbs.

The then Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s controversial decision to aerial spray west Auckland to combat the spread of painted apple moth was met with anger and protests.

An ombudsman’s report in 2007 said officials failed to pay enough attention to the health effects of the insecticide Foray 48B which was used in the painted apple moth outbreak and an Asian gypsy moth outbreak in Hamilton between 2002 and 2004.

– Additional reporting: Claire Trevett of the New Zealand Herald

The story so far:

– Four confirmed Queensland fruit flies found

– Three male fruit flies caught in traps

– A single unmated female located at a residential property

– One pupa and 39 larvae also found

– MPI not considering aerial spraying or sterile insect technique


VietNamNet Bridge – Widespread abuse of pesticides was undermining food safety in the country, participants said at a recent conference on plant protection held in Hanoi.


There are 139 pesticide manufacturers and 230 trading companies specialising in pesticides and a network of more than 32,000 retailers and 37 plant quarantine organisations across the country. — Photo hanoimoi

They said that the agriculture sector should prioritise curbing this abuse, which has also polluted the environment and reduced cost-efficiency of agricultural production in the country.
Conference speakers also stressed the need to tighten food market regulations, provide incentives to apply scientific and technological advancements in agricultural production, and encourage farmers to follow food safety protocols.
Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Le Quoc Doanh said that improving the safety of agricultural products remained the most important objective for the nation’s plant protection sub-sector this year.
He also said effective use and control of pesticides was crucial for the agricultural sector to boost exports in 2015.
Conference participants noted that farmers tended to spend a lot of money on different brands of pesticides when crops were under attack by insects or diseases, increasing their input costs and causing avoidable wastage.
There are 139 pesticide manufacturers and 230 trading companies specialising in pesticides and a network of more than 32,000 retailers and 37 plant quarantine organisations across the country.
A recent inspection carried out by the Plant Protection Department found 1,704 pesticide retailers (13.8 per cent of the total number inspected) committing various violations including operating without a business licence, unsatisfactory storage facilities, and selling counterfeit as well as expired products.
Deputy head of the Plant Protection Department, Hoang Trung, said Viet Nam’s plant quarantine procedures had undergone major administrative reforms and several barriers removed as the Government aimed to further boost agricultural products export.
Agriculture exports last year totalled US$31 billion. Of the ten products that exceeded the $1 billion export mark, seven were agricultural crops.
Trung said the sector would continue taking steps to improve production and quality of products. It would also strive to strengthen its position in traditional export markets while looking for new ones, he added.
Nguyen Thanh Liem, deputy director of Vinh Long Province’s department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the nation was in the middle of an agricultural restructuring process and plant protection activities must be adjusted accordingly.
A major part of agricultural restructuring was identifying and developing crops that offer greater economic value. However, with the exception of rice, a system for forecasting disease forecasting had not been implemented for other high-yield crops, he said.
Head of the Plant Protection Department Nguyen Xuan Hong said an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) project for the 2015-20 period had been approved by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
It aimed to reduce production costs and minimise environmental pollution caused by agricultural production, he said.
Tags:Pesticide abuse, food safety

Scientific American logo





Endophytes that live in plant cells could confer a host of benefits

February 17, 2015 |By Niina Heikkinen and ClimateWire

Endophytes 2


Although endophytes live within tissues and are ubiquitous in the plant world, it wasn’t until relatively recently that scientists even knew of their existence.
Credit: Wikipedia



As scientists seek to make crops resilient against disease and the effects of climate change, they are turning to what may seem like an unlikely champion: fungi.

Specifically, they are studying endophytes, a type of fungus (or bacteria) that lives inside plant tissue and has no apparent negative effects on its hosts. Endophytes do, however, provide important protections to plants, which is why researchers are focusing on how the organisms could be used commercially to improve food security.

Although endophytes live within tissues and are ubiquitous in the plant world, it wasn’t until relatively recently that scientists even knew of their existence, said Brian Murphy, a botanist at Trinity College in Dublin.

Murphy is currently studying how fungal endophytes could be used to protect barley against disease-causing fungi and recently published some promising results in the journal BioControl.

In the study, Murphy and his collaborators cultivated barley seeds that had not been treated with fungicides to see how effective 10 types of fungal endophytes were at preventing or slowing the onset of disease. The seeds were cultivated in a variety of media, and the endophytes were applied either in a cocktail or individually.

They found that the application of specific types of fungal endophytes, isolated from wild barley growing in Dublin, suppressed the development of seedborne infections in barley, without activating the plants’ own defense system. Seeds that were not treated with the fungi developed some of the most devastating varieties of barley pathogens, according to the study.

The type of endophyte that had the greatest ability to suppress pathogen growth was also able to slow the growth of “take-all,” a root disease that also affects wheat and oats. This could mean that endophytes have the capacity to serve as more generalized “bio-control agents,” but researchers won’t know this for sure without further research.

Field tests and a ‘compatibility library’
The study is gaining interest from European agribusiness, and Murphy’s lab is informally working with a major company to make its endophytes commercially available for barley growers. The next step will be to take the research out of the lab and into field trials, which will likely take about three years to complete.

If endophyte use as a disease-fighting agent proves to be viable, it could have wide applicability across the globe, because barley is the fourth most cultivated cereal grain in the world.

“We don’t know how these organisms will behave in a field environment,” Murphy said. “We hope that one or possibly a cocktail of endophytes will be able to help the plants, but we can’t predict outcomes.”

“The other big issue is cost,” Murphy said. If expanding production is more expensive than producing fungicides, commercialization is unlikely. But if development moves forward, endophyte use could reduce long-term costs.

“Because we are coating each seed individually [with endophytes], we might be able to have a self-sustaining population [of fungi] in the soil,” Murphy said.

Out of the 10 fungal endophytes tested, the two best performers came from wild barley growing in sandy, silty soil, with relatively high salinity and low moisture. In the laboratory, endophytes grown in sandy and silty soil cultures performed noticeably better than those cultivated in artificial media.

The research suggests that soil conditions play an important role in endophytes’ ability to suppress infection. It also means that endophytes have specific conditions in which they are the most effective, which has important implications for commercializing their use. Fungi that work well on barley in India wouldn’t necessarily help barley grown in Ireland, and vice versa.

To get around this limitation, Murphy is hoping to one day develop a “compatibility library” to help producers match the right endophyte with their specific growing conditions and crop varieties.

Endophytes aren’t just useful for fighting disease-causing fungi; they also help plants survive a wide variety of environmental stressors. In a separate experiment, Murphy exposed plants to drought, nutrient and pathogen stress to see whether endophytes could help plants survive multiple adverse conditions.

“We found fantastic benefits,” he said. “We hit these plants with them all at the same time, and we really made them suffer. The plants treated with endophytes had six times the survival rate as those without. It’s literally the difference between life and death.”

Fungi help plants use less water
To Murphy, the fungi will be key players in the “green revolution” that will move global agriculture away from heavy reliance on chemical fungicides and fertilizers.

The beginnings of that shift may already be underway. Across the Atlantic, researchers in Seattle are moving forward with commercializing endophytes to make crops more resilient to abiotic stresses that are expected to become more common with climate change.

Rusty Rodriguez, the founder and CEO of Symbiogenics, a nonprofit research corporation, is leading studies on how fungal endophytes could be used to help crops better withstand drought, high temperatures and high soil salinity.

“We found that they can significantly contribute to enhancing the tolerance of these plants,” he said. “The endophytes make them more efficient.”

More efficient plants require less water and nutrients to thrive, reducing the need for chemical fertilizers, as well as the amount of nitrous oxide emissions released from cropland.

Unlike in Murphy’s study, where the endophytes’ ability to fight fungal diseases was connected to the type of media the plant was growing in, Rodriguez said there were no such restrictions for the fungi he used in his studies. However, endophytes do need to be crop-specific.

“We’ve done field testing in lots of different states, in different climates and soil conditions, and remarkably, it didn’t seem to matter,” he said.

So far, the researchers have tested the fungi with a wide range of crops, including barley, wheat, corn and soybeans, as well as sorghum, alfalfa and a number of vegetables.

After about a century of heavy chemical use in agriculture, Rodriguez said, the focus among researchers is shifting.

“The inputs to agriculture are going to be precipitously lower in coming years,” Rodriguez said.

There is also more commercial support for studies like Murphy’s that use fungi instead of chemicals to control plant diseases.

As for his own research, Rodriguez expects that a product line using endophytes, called Bioensure, will be commercially available later this year.

Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. http://www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500




February 19th, 2015


Queensland_Fruit_Fly_-_Bactrocera_tryoni-300x298Queensland Fruit Fly – Bactrocera tryoni

Photo: Queensland Fruit Fly, via Wikimedia Creative Commons

Horticulture New Zealand has called for a bolstering of the country biosecurity measures after a single male Queensland fruit fly was found in a surveillance trap near Auckland.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is investigating the find, which was made late afternoon on Feb. 16 in the suburb of Grey Lynn and formally identified the following day.

MPI chief operations officer Andrew Coleman said only the one male insect had been trapped and this did not mean New Zealand had an outbreak of fruit fly.

“The Queensland fruit fly has been detected five times before in northern New Zealand – in Whangarei and in Auckland. In all cases MPI carried out thorough surveillance and no further flies were found,” he said.

Coleman added the MPI had responded swiftly and field teams starting work yesterday setting additional fruit fly lure traps to determine if other flies are present in the area, and if other flies are there, preventing any spread of the pest out of the area.

“It is vital to find out if this insect is a solitary find or if there is a wider population in Auckland,” he said.

“This insect, if established here, could have serious consequences for New Zealand’s horticultural industry. It can damage a wide range of fruit and vegetables and could lead to restrictions on trade in some of our horticultural exports.”

The MPI said it had now placed legal controls on the movement of fruit and some vegetables outside of a defined circular area which extends 1.5km (1 mile) from where the fly was trapped in Grey Lynn.

Spread of pest in Australia ‘out of control’

Since the find, Horticulture New Zealand has called for the reinstalling of 100% x-rays of passenger bags at the country’s international airports until at least the end of summer.

The organization said in a release this detection was the fourth in three years and put New Zealand’s NZ$5 billion (US$3.8 billion) horticultural industry at risk.

“So far it is only one fly. And we fully support the Ministry for Primary Industries’ response to this threat,” HortNZ president Julian Raine said.

HortNZ requested the public back the Ministry’s efforts, especially in the exclusion zone areas, as it said the pest would also have big impacts on home gardeners.

It added it was laying the blame for this breach on Australia’s inability to control the pest, claiming the country’s biosecurity protection within its own state borders was ‘seriously breaking down.’

The group said that last week the residents of Adelaide were told of the second detection of Queensland fruit flies in their city in less than two months, while seven flies found in the last detection.

“South Australia is supposed to be a Queensland fruit fly free state. Obviously the spread of this pest is out-of-control in Australia and the interstate regulators are powerless to stop its progression south,” Raine said.

The Queensland fruit fly can only come from Australia and some Pacific islands, most likely via a passenger coming off a plane or on a consignment of imported fruit.

“Reinstating the 100% x-ray of passenger bags coming from across the Tasman would go a long way towards helping us improve our protection and lower this risk,” Raine added.

“It is not acceptable to go through this drama every summer. New Zealand horticulture deserves better protection.”

HortNZ added the cost to the horticultural industry would be two-fold, involving the destruction caused by the pest and the ongoing cost of attempting to control it as well as the cost of international markets closing to New Zealand’s products.



        • Endophytic fungi growing between tall fescue cells Nick Hill

By Nathanael Johnson on 18 Feb 2015

Scientists in Ireland have found that growing fungus inside barley helps the plants ward off disease. Brian Murphy, a botanist at Trinity College Dublin, has also shown that an inoculation of fungus allows plants to thrive in harsh conditions.

ClimateWire, which has a nice write-up here, quoted Murphy explaining that the fungal treatment helped when plants were exposed to drought, stress, and disease all at once:

“We found fantastic benefits,” he said. “We hit these plants with them all at the same time, and we really made them suffer. The plants treated with [fungi] had six times the survival rate as those without. It’s literally the difference between life and death.”

If this technology pans out, it could replace pesticides in some situations. Instead of buying seeds coated in neonicotinoids, farmers might buy seeds coated with the spores of fungi, which would then make their way inside the crop. There are already several research groups and companies playing around with fungal treatments for ag.

I don’t usually write about promising farm technologies that haven’t been tested in the field and the market: There’s just too many wonderful ideas that never become economically sustainable. But I’m making an exception this time because it gives me a chance to talk about endophytes, the strangest ubiquitous life form you never knew existed.

Fungal endophytes live inside the living tissue of plants, extending arms between the cells. They seem to be in every plant scientists look at. We know very little about them, and practically every time scientists test a leaf, they discover a new species living inside. Sometimes plants will have a “densely packed mosaic of diverse endophyte species” inside each leaf.

Endophytic fungi often enhance the fitness of plants, but they aren’t necessarily good — some switch roles to become parasites, or consume dying cells. What they all are, though, is amazing.

I love that there’s a vast new world to explore, hidden between the cells of plants. And of course there’s tremendous practical potential for the use of endophytes, too: They provide another avenue, besides breeding and chemicals, to make plants more resilient and productive.

Little cherry

PHOTO: Little cherry virus (DPIPWE)

A year after the first positive test in Australia, a virus stunting cherries has been confirmed in 13 orchards.

The little cherry disease virus originated in Japan and causes flavourless, undersized cherries.

It was first detected in tissue from Tasmanian cherry trees in January 2014.

Tasmania’s chief plant health manager, Andrew Bishop, said further surveillance and testing had shown the virus spread throughout his state and was also present in Victoria and New South Wales.

But Mr Bishop said that while growers from around Australia were testing underperforming trees, there were few signs of infection appearing in mainland orchards.

“One of the reasons we think is due to the climatic differences,” he said.

“The warmer, drier conditions aren’t conducive to the virus expressing itself, whereas down in Tasmania it is probably expressing itself a lot more, so it is more visible.”

Mr Bishop said the expression of the virus ranged from a handful of trees to a few dozen trees within an infected farm, but whole orchards were not affected.

He said that in Australia the virus was only spread through grafting, but in Europe and America it could be spread by a mealy bug, which was not in Australia.

Fresh Plaza

Publication date: 2/10/2015

Citrus is big business in Florida but a disease is threatening the industry. On Monday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it will spend $30 million to fight citrus greening. Local growers and sellers hope the government finds a cure soon.

The fruit inside Poinsettia Groves in Vero Beach comes from all over Indian River County.

“Our crew will go out and pick it, bring it back,” says owner Jeb Hudson. Hudson says citrus greening has forced them to go to more groves to find fruit to sell to their customers. He says the disease is spreading.

Less high quality fruit means Hudson and other sellers are paying higher prices.

“Navels used to cost us maybe $15 a box on the tree,” says Hudson, “This year we’re $20 to $22 and grapefruit that might have been $8 or $9 is $10 or $12 a box.”

The USDA said it will fund 22 projects to help fight citrus greening. It will focus on things like soil, pest control and one project will train dogs to sniff out infected trees.

Some estimates say greening has cut citrus production in half over the last decade. That means Hudson will have to look harder for the best oranges and grapefruit.

“They say greening is in every grove now but not every tree is going to have it,” says Hudson, “Even if a tree has it, not every piece of fruit.”

Source: wptv.com



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 224 other followers