Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search

 


Release of bug could put NZ native species at risk

Release of bug could put NZ native species at risk

New Zealand’s native insects and plants will be put at risk if a proposal to release a predatory bug to protect tomato plants goes ahead, says University of Auckland biosecurity lecturer Dr Margaret Stanley.

New Zealand’s native insects and plants will be put at risk if a proposal to release a predatory bug to protect tomato plants goes ahead, says University of Auckland biosecurity lecturer Dr Margaret Stanley.

Industry body TomatoesNZ, which represents New Zealand tomato growers, has applied to the Government’s environmental regulator, the Environmental Protection Authority, to import and release Macrolophus pygmaeusas a biocontrol agent for the greenhouse whitefly. Growers say controlling greenhouse whitefly by introducing a biocontrol agent would lower the use of chemical sprays and increase yields.

But in her submission to the EPA, Dr Stanley says if Macrolophus pygmaeus is introduced to New Zealand, there is a high risk of damage to New Zealand’s unique flora and fauna.

“There is a risk some New Zealand native species will be lost if this application is approved or at the very least there will be irreversible damage to plant and invertebrate animal communities. While the industry’s drive to reduce the use of chemical sprays is admirable, the likely negative consequences for New Zealand are likely to be worse than the current spray regime.”

Dr Stanley says a number of aspects of TomatoesNZ’s application to the EPA are of concern, including the assertion that the predatory bug is a specialist whitefly predator.

“Given that it also feeds on aphids, moth eggs, caterpillars, thrips and spider mites this is clearly a generalist predator and the implications of releasing such an organism needs to be considered with great care. Best practice for biocontrol around the world is to use highly specific biocontrol agents to reduce risk.”

While tomato growers are seeking to breed colonies of Macrolophus pygmaeus for release into greenhouses, Dr Stanley says the bug will have many opportunities to escape through open cooling vents. It has established outside greenhouses in the UK and the risk of the same thing happening here is high.

“The most reliable climate modelling shows Macrolophus pygmaeus would have optimal ecoclimate conditions to establish in Northland, Auckland and the east coast of the North Island, and ‘suitable’ conditions extend south to Nelson.”

Macrolophus pygmaeus was released illegally in New Zealand in 2007 but did not survive outside greenhouses. Dr Stanley says the industry is using that to support its case, but argues the bug was not released on a scale comparable to what is now proposed and the illegal release was also very localised.

“The illegal release in 2007 can’t be compared to what could happen under the new plan which will see the bug released into greenhouses on a much larger scale and over a far wider area,” Dr Stanley says.

Comparing New Zealand to the UK, where M. pygmaeus was introduced in 1991, was also misleading.

“Unlike Europe, a high proportion of our native invertebrates are found nowhere else in the world and some of them have yet to be scientifically described so that we don’t even know whether or not they are threatened or to what degree they will be impacted by the introduction of this new species,” Dr Stanley says.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

Gongs Got: Canon Media Awards & NZ Radio Awards Happen

Radio NZ: RNZ website The Wireless, which is co-funded by NZ On Air, was named best website, while Toby Manhire and Toby Morris won the best opinion general writing section for their weekly column on rnz.co.nz and Tess McClure won the best junior feature writer section. More>>

ALSO:

Pre-Budget: Debt Focus Risks Losing Opportunity To Stoke Economy

The Treasury is likely to upgrade its forecasts for economic growth in Budget 2016 next week but Finance Minister Bill English has already signalled that more of his focus is on debt repayment than on fiscal stimulus or tax cuts... More>>

ALSO:

Fulton Hogan's Heroes: Managing Director Nick Miller Resigns

Fulton Hogan managing director Nick Miller will leave the privately owned construction company after seven years in charge. The Dunedin-based company has kicked off a search for a replacement, and Miller will stay on at the helm until March next year, or until a successor has been appointed and a transition period completed. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On Electricity, Executions, And Bob Dylan

The Electricity Authority has unveiled the final version of its pricing plan for electricity transmission. This will change the way transmission prices (which comprise about 10% of the average power bill) are computed, and will add hundreds of dollars a year to power bills for many ordinary consumers. More>>

ALSO:

Half Empty: Fonterra NZ, Australia Milk Collection Drops In Season

Fonterra Cooperative Group says milk collection is down in New Zealand and Australia, its two largest markets, in the first 11 months of the season during a period of weak dairy prices. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sci-Tech
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news