Plant & Food Research Innovation Recognised

18 October 2013

Plant & Food Research had two reasons to celebrate at last nights New Zealand Innovators Awards held at Auckland Museum. The Crown Research Institute won the ‘Innovation in Environment and Agriculture’ category for research into insect sex pheromones, while the Biopolymer Network (BPN), a company jointly owned by Plant & Food Research, Scion and AgResearch, also won the ‘Innovation Excellence in Research’ category.

Sex pheromones, the natural chemicals released by the females of many insect species to attract mates, can be used to disrupt communication between insects, reducing their ability to identify mates and subsequently leading to a reduction in the population and reduced reliance on chemical controls.

Mating disruption tools for four key insect pests - codling moth and three leafroller species – were developed by Plant & Food Research for use on apple orchards. The science team, headed by Dr Max Suckling, identified and isolated pheromones from these four species and developed methods for controlling the insects in orchards.

“It’s great to have our research recognised in this way. The innovation really is the result of years of hard work by the research team,” says Dr Suckling.

Originally used in individual dispensers, the synthetic pheromones are now able to be blended for use in a combination dispenser to disrupt the mating of all four species simultaneously. This dispenser is now a key part of the Apple Futures programme, which aims to deliver apples for export with ultra-low residues to meet market regulations and supermarket customer assurance programmes. The combination ISOMATE®4Play dispenser is now manufactured by Shin-Etsu Fine Chemicals (Japan) for Etec Crop Solutions Ltd.

More information on Plant & Food Research’s pheromone-based mating disruption research, including a video and interview with Max Suckling can be found in the Growing Futures case study.

Plant & Food Research’s other success came as a partner in the Biopolymer Network (BPN), a finalist in two categories and winner of the ‘Innovation Excellence in Research’ category for its green fish packaging, ZealaFoam.

ZealaFoam is made from expandable polylactic acid (EPLA), derived from renewable resources such as plant starch, and has been shown to have temperature control equivalent to traditional fish packaging made from expanded polystyrene (EPS). This readily compostable packaging would support the seafood industry’s requirement for a new environmentally sustainable packaging material to replace EPS, which is made from petrochemicals and is slow to degrade.

Plant & Food Research have strong connections to BPN, in addition to being a major research provider to the company, Plant & Food Research Group General Manager Commercial David Hughes is Chair of the BPN Board which also includes GM Science Breeding & Genomics Kieran Elborough, while Dr Nigel Larsen is on the Research Management Team.

Emma Timewell
Communications Manager, Corporate Communications,
Plant & Food Research Mt Albert,
120 Mt Albert Road, Sandringham
Auckland, 1025, New Zealand
Telephone: +64-9-925 8692
Mobile: +64-21-2429 365

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