Operation Pollinator project gets underway in New Zealand

5 July 2019

The project titled Operation Pollinator – which aims to enhance biodiversity to increase the effectiveness of pollinators on commercial farms – is launching in New Zealand with a partnership between Syngenta and Plant & Food Research.

Operation Pollinator is a global Syngenta program which aims to provide essential habitat to boost the numbers of pollinating insects and enhance overall biodiversity, improved crop yields, sustainable farming and environmental stewardship. 

Plant & Food Research was chosen as a partner for the project because of the long-standing knowledge and experience in pollinators, pollination biology and the impact on key economic crops such as kiwifruit and apples. The research team from Plant & Food Research are looking to achieve some key milestones by the end of 2019. 

Plant & Food Research Scientist, Dr Brad Howlett, explains that the partnership with Syngenta will take advantage of knowledge gained during the research to identify associations between plant species and insects in order to design specific on-farm plant habitats to promote populations of known beneficial insects while minimising populations of pest species. 

“Our findings show that many exotic plants have associations with pest species and in contrast many of our native plant species have not been shown to be significant hosts of the more damaging insect pests but rather are being utilised by beneficial insects including pollinators,” Dr Howlett says.

Blake Mackie, Syngenta New Zealand, noted that independent research trials have shown that the creation of even small areas of dedicated habitat can significantly increase the numbers of pollinating insects which is important for many reasons. 

“Understanding which native plant species to choose and providing direction into establishing these species on suitable non-farming land will be a key outcome of the initial project,” says Mr Mackie. 

To date the research team have compiled lists of key beneficial insects and pest species of various crops and done in-depth analysis of existing information to identify associations with these species and native plants. 

Going forward, two kiwifruit orchards will be identified as sites for establishing native plantations, nearby. Prior to establishment, the sites will be assessed for the presence of pollinators and beneficial insects using observation, hand-collected specimens and window trap surveys. 

Insect diversity will be sampled every quarter following the establishment of plantations across consecutive years and ongoing monitoring will determine the effect of established habitats on the relative abundance of pollinators and crop yield. 

Sarah Evans
Senior Communications Advisor, Corporate Communications,
Plant & Food Research Mt Albert,
120 Mt Albert Road, Sandringham
Auckland, 1025, New Zealand
EMail: media@plantandfood.co.nz
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