Rebecca Fisher joins TomatoesNZ
I am pleased to advise that Rebecca Fisher has been appointed as Tomatoes NZ interim General Manager to take over from me from mid-February.
Rebecca was Executive Manager of Citrus New Zealand for 6 years and Crop Protection Manager for Market Access Solutionz for 11 years working in regulatory affairs. She has worked with tomato growers while in the Market Access Solutionz role. Rebecca now works at HortNZ and is looking forward to working closely with the TomatoesNZ board and growers to help achieve their goals and priorities as well as overcome some of the obstacles growers face at this challenging time.
We are delighted to welcome Rebecca to Tomatoes New Zealand!
Rebecca can be contacted at Rebecca.Fisher@hortnz.co.nz
Biocontrol agent Engytatus study completed
Over the past three years, Emiliano Veronesi has undertaken his PhD research, sponsored by TomatoesNZ, into using the mirid bug Engytatus nicotianae to manage the tomato-potato psyllid (TPP) in greenhouse tomato crops.
We would like to congratulate Emiliano for recently submitting his thesis to Lincoln University!
His PhD has demonstrated that Engytatus has enormous potential as a biocontrol agent for TPP. Work on how to implement Engytatus in a commercial tomato glasshouse “integrated pest management” setting is now underway under the A Lighter Touch research programme.
Read the Q&A with Emiliano below to find out more about him and his work on behalf of TNZ growers.
1. Where are you from originally and what brought you to NZ?
I’m Italian, from a small town called Lodi, about 25 km south of Milan. I used to be a tutor and a science teacher in Italy, but then I decided I wanted to DO science, not just teach it, so I applied for several PhD positions and I was selected for a few of them. Among the options, this PhD funded by Tomatoes New Zealand looked perfect to me, as my entire career (in terms of studying) has been focussed on the environment, agriculture and entomology, so this project on TPP was just perfect!
2. What made you choose Engytatus as a focus for your PhD?
It all started with me filling a whiteboard with candidates for biocontrol agents that were already present (hence legal) in NZ. Our aim was to identify something new and with potential, and such a goal helped a lot with the following screening process, as most of the beneficial insects we listed had already been evaluated before and they weren’t very successful. We ended up having a handful of candidates and almost no clue on which one we should start researching. In the end, we decided to factor in the ability of bugs to survive for a little while in the absence of prey and whether there were records (from overseas) of good results from relative species. This literally narrowed down our choice to a couple of candidates and Engytatus was our choice, based also on the availability of the bug which Bioforce could supply.
3. Were you surprised by anything in your research?
The entire process of research is a constant surprise but yes, definitely we were surprised of our results, especially with regards to the first cage trial of Engytatus against TPP. Actually, surprised is not even the right word, we were sceptical, to such an extent that we decided to run the same experiment twice, because results were so promising we believed some unknown external factor might have played a role. Luckily enough, we had even better results with the second run, and that was definitely a (good) surprise: it doesn’t happen very often to come across such potential when you research biocontrol agents.
4. What have some of the challenges been over the last couple of years?
Researching is challenging if we consider that you are dedicating time and money to evaluate whether something works or not, and most of time it doesn’t. But this is part of the game and everyone who signs up to be a researcher should learn how to deal with that. However, there are things that have happened and that I wasn’t prepared for. One of them is COVID: it has disrupted a good portion of my work and even caused the loss of 3 months of experimental work, as we weren’t allowed to access our greenhouse during lockdown. Furthermore, it kept me far from my family and friends, who I haven’t seen since September 2019. However, the biggest challenge for me has been the loss of my mentor and supervisor, Professor Steve Wratten, almost 1 year ago. I had such a good relationship with him and he was so helpful and supporting that for a little while I felt like everything was lost. It was the desire to keep his view (and our project) alive that gave me the strength to carry on. Thankfully, Professor Stephen Goldson, my new supervisor, has also been very supportive and because of his help I’ve managed to conclude my experiments and to write and submit my thesis.
5. What are you most proud about with your publication?
Nowadays if feels like there is some sort of battle going on between those who want to see chemicals banned and those who think that biocontrol is useless.Funnily enough, both views are wrong. Today, it would be impossible to maintain our standards of productivity without the aid of pesticides, however, it is rather naïve (to say the least) to think that biocontrol cannot play an important role in the management of pests: at the end of the day, that’s what Integrated Pest Management (IPM) really is: a combination of different approaches to cope with pests. I needed this premise to answer the question; I’m proud to have been working in, and perhaps giving my little contribute to, the pursuit of more sustainable agriculture.
6. Where to next?
I do love teaching as much as I love researching. My dream is to be a lecturer: such a role would allow me to teach the next generations of farmers and scientist and, in the meantime, keep doing research.
Emiliano’s current paper can be read online. If you would like an email to the link, please email Dinah Dinah.firstname.lastname@example.org
Decarbonisation funding for Greenhouses
Last month we told you about funding that is available from our partners at EECA, specifically aimed at small to medium sized grower. This provides co-funding for projects that will reduce carbon emissions from your greenhouse. You are all aware that the price for ETS has seen a huge increase over the last 12 months and this is only set to continue, adding to the production costs for everyone with covered crops.
The EECA funding scheme offers a real chance to receive funding towards a sustainable alternative tech solution that will offer a long-term investment to your business as well as to the environment.
More details about what is on offer are available here: https://www.eeca.govt.nz/co-funding/technology-demonstration/
If your business would like one-to-one advice on what might best for you, please email Dinah Dinah.email@example.com
Applications close 25th March.