Wairarapa to host first North Island release of dung beetles
Wairarapa to host first release of dung beetles in the North Island
A South Wairarapa organic dairy farm will make farming history when it becomes the first in the North Island to release dung beetles into the environment to help improve soil health and pasture productivity.
On Tuesday 8 October, two new species of dung beetle from Europe - Onthophagus Taurus and Onthophagus Binodus - will be released onto Ian and Heather Atkinson’s farm near Pirinoa by representatives of Greater Wellington Regional Council and Landcare Research. About 500 dung beetles are expected to be released.
It is estimated that animal dung covers 700,000ha of pastoral land in New Zealand. Dung beetles use the faeces of animals for food and reproduction, eventually breaking it down into a sawdust-like material. The process not only gets rid of the dung, it also improves soil health and pasture productivity, reduces water and nutrient runoff, and has been shown to reduce parasitic infection in livestock.
The release of the dung beetles is part of a project started by the Dung Beetle Release Strategy Group to help improve the productivity of New Zealand farms and reduce the impact they have on the environment. The Wairarapa release will be the second to take place in New Zealand, after a Southland farm introduced dung beetles to its soil last month. Greater Wellington Regional Council was one of only a few councils to invest in the project of releasing these dung beetles in New Zealand from the outset.
Greater Wellington Regional Council team leader for pest plants Richard Grimmett says the council is hopeful that other organisations will follow suit.
“The benefits of releasing these beetles in New Zealand far exceeds the costs to bring them here. This is an initiative that has the potential to drastically improve the health of our region’s farms and our environment.”
Andrew Barber from the Dung Beetle Release Strategy Group (DBRSG) says the release will mark the end of a long process to get the beetles introduced.
“I truly believe that dung beetles have the potential to transform New Zealand’s pastoral- based agricultural system. More production at a lower environmental cost, it is a terrific story. I foresee a time when our grandchildren will not believe that paddocks were once covered with dung.”
The beetles were initially held in containment where they underwent a comprehensive approval process, which included disease clearance by the Ministry for Primary Industries. Since then they have been mass reared and cage field trialed.