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

 

Trade Agreements: TPP Minus US Starting To Gain Ground

The Japanese government is picking up the pace on reviving the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade and investment deal, with talks scheduled next month among the 11 countries left in the pact after the withdrawal by the US after the election of president Donald Trump. More>>

ALSO:

PACER:

Prices Up 2.2%: Annual Inflation Highest In Over Five Years

"Rising petrol prices along with the annual rise in cigarette and tobacco tax lifted inflation," prices senior manager Jason Attewell said. "Petrol prices in New Zealand are closely linked to global oil prices, and cigarettes and tobacco taxes rise in the March quarter each year". More>>

ALSO:

Undertaxed? NZ Income Tax Rate Second Lowest Among Developed Nations

New Zealand workers pay the second smallest portion of their income to the government among developed nations and less than half the average ratio of their Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development peers. More>>

ALSO:

Cyclone Cook: Round Up Of This Week’s Weather

One of the significant impacts this week was flooding due to excessive rainfall amounts. Rainfall amounts topped out at 350mm over the past 60 hours in parts of northwest Nelson, with 200mm+ measurements recorded about Coromandel Peninsula, and between 150-200mm in the Kaimai Ranges. Rainfall amounts of between 30-50mm were commonplace elsewhere. More>>

ALSO:

Earlier: Batten Down The Hatches For Cyclone Cook

Although fast-moving, Cyclone Cook will be destructive and MetService Expert Meteorologists have issued Severe Wind Warnings for the whole of the North Island apart from Northland... More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sci-Tech
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news