May 15 2017

Monthly Update - May 2017

Hunt” for Macrolophus project proposal approved

At their second meeting for the year in Auckland on April 26th, the TomatoesNZ board was presented with a detailed proposal for a “Hunt for Macrolophus”. The proposal was presented by John Kean of the Biocontrol and Biosecurity group, AgResearch, and was for the design and implementation of a field survey to detect the presence of the whitefly biocontrol agent Macrolophus pygmaeus in New Zealand. 

The AgResearch team has extensive experience designing surveys for detecting insects, including for the successful eradication of Great White Butterfly in 2016, and developing risk maps for the entry and establishment of fruit flies.

In 2014, TomatoesNZ failed in our bid for approval from the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) to release Macrolophus into NZ. The failure was predominantly because of the polyphagous nature of the insect (meaning it feeds on a wide range of species including plants); and the fact that the climate modelling, while showing that Macrolophus was unlikely to survive in NZ outside of greenhouses, was dismissed by the panel as insufficient evidence that Macrolophus would not have a negative impact on New Zealand overall. 

During the EPA application process, it came to light that a previous illegal distribution of this biocontrol agent throughout New Zealand (in the mid 2000’s) was much wider than previously understood.  TomatoesNZ is keen to find out if any have survived. If they have not survived, then the climate modelling was correct. If they have survived, we will notify MPI of their presence and there will then be a process of determining whether either an eradication should be attempted or it should be declared as “present in NZ”.

This first stage of the project involves a small working group considering all the information we know about Macrolophus and its previous distribution in NZ, and sharing that with the AgResearch team. This will inform the designing of the survey.

The second stage will create a map of the locations where Macrolophus is most likely to be present outdoors in NZ.  The TomatoesNZ board will then consider how to proceed based on the map. If the board consider it is worth proceeding with the “hunt”, options for surveying will be developed. There will be a trade-off between cost and the level of sensitivity of the survey (likelihood of detection), which the board will consider before a survey is begun.

Study on Tamarixia in glasshouses

The TomatoesNZ board also approved a funding contribution for a Lincoln University post-doctoral student to undertake some research on the use of Tamarixia, the new Tomato and Potato Psyllid (TPP) biocontrol agent,in glasshouses.

There is a belief that Tamarixia may not be useful in a glasshouse situation because biological control requires a base level population of the pest for sustenance, and growers have a “zero tolerance” for TPP.  Additionally there is the fear of introducing a Liberibacter infection, vectored by the TPP.

However, the Lincoln research group believe that Tamarixia could reduce pest numbers by 99.9%. There is also some recent NZ research showing that almost all wild TPP are not carrying Liberibacter, but instead the bacteria load increases following it’s colonisation of crops.  The post-doctoral study will look at whether Tamarixia can achieve and maintain low populations of TPP in the glasshouse, and the impact on Liberibacter presence.

At the time of writing this column, no Tamarixia had yet been released into NZ. As reported in last month’s column, the first imported batch were found to have a fungal contaminant. It is hoped that some “clean” Tamarixa will be available for release in the next couple of months.

Industry energy and carbon data to be updated

It is nine years since the indoor vegetables industry last measured its “carbon life cycle”, or “carbon footprint”, and even longer since energy use data was compiled. Last year the NZ government committed to the Paris Agreement on greenhouse gas emissions mitigation and adaptation, resulting in an extensive and ongoing review of how NZ will meet the new Paris commitments, predominantly through our Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

At its April meeting, the Tomatoes board agreed to fund a project that will update that data.  This will be done by asking growers to answer a few survey questions. We have also supported a bid for MPI funds from the Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change fund. This project is to better understand energy related greenhouse gas emissions in horticulture. This project is outlined in this month’s Vegetables New Zealand column.

It is important that we have up to data so that we can advocate on the industry’s behalf, as well as understand where industry can continue to improve its emissions profile.

TomatoesNZ Board Nominations

Due to rotations there are currently two vacancies on the TNZ Board:

•             Edward Lee, Auckland, has retired by rotation, is available for re-election, and is deemed nominated

•             Anthony Tringham, Auckland, has retired by rotation, is available for re-election, and is deemed nominated

Any active fresh tomato grower that has grown and paid levy on fresh tomatoes during the past 12 months, or a director, shareholder, trustee or employee (nominated by the grower entity as their representative) of an active fresh tomato grower, can be nominated or make a nomination.

Nominations close at 5pm Wednesday 24th May 2017


AGM Remits

TomatoesNZ’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) will be held on Wednesday 12th July, at ASB Baypark, Tauranga.

Remits for the AGM can be submitted up until 5:00pm, Wednesday 14th June.

Further details about remits and nominations, including a nomination form, have been posted to TomatoesNZ members in early May.  Please contact Lynda Banks, PO Box 10232, The Terrace Wellington 6143,, with any queries.