Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

Impact 4.1: Factors (including the form of institutions) required to resolve complex environmental issues are understood, and opportunities recognised for adapting to global change and reducing vulnerability to resource scarcity

The Canterbury Plains. Image - John Hunt

The Canterbury Plains. Image - John Hunt

Key performance indicator 4.2a: An industry sector (dairy, horticulture or energy) is using a framework for integrating economic, environmental, social and/or cultural drivers to meet community and/or market requirements.

Regulators, sector groups, consumers and communities increasingly expect evidence of sustainable management of land, soil and water resources, and environmental responsibility in the business sector. Scenario modelling and decision frameworks, underpinned by economic and environmental data, enable more-informed exploration of policy options and management scenarios to better meet the government agenda and community and cultural values.

2010/11 Baseline situation: Primary Industries were beginning to use more sophisticated frameworks such as environmental footprinting (e.g. carbon and water) to support reputation and brand.

Progress 2011/12:

Progress 2012/13:

Progress 2013/14:

The World Resources Institute’s ‘ecosystem service review’ methodology was applied to develop strategies for ZESPRI International to manage risks and opportunities arising from growers’ dependence on ecosystems. New Zealand’s biosecurity and overseas market access are supported by a DNA-barcoding tool for accurate, rapid detection and identification of Colletotrichum, a major group of plant pathogenic fungi. Enviro-Mark Solutions certifications of greenhouse gas footprints in five countries amounts to more than twice New Zealand’s annual footprint; more than half of Scotland’s annual footprint is directly CEMARS certified.
Our carboNZeroCertTM programme and CEMARS® is being used by 138 New Zealand businesses and organisations. 134 New Zealand organisations are registered in CEMARS or the carboNZero programme. To date carboNZero Holdings has undertaken over 95% of all the voluntary accredited greenhouse gas certifications across Australia and New Zealand. 115 New Zealand clients were using the CEMARS or the carboNZero programmes during this year (see: Knowledge & technology transfer).
Our Enviro-Mark® management system is being used by 180 member ms in the print, food production, and retail industries. Our Enviro-Mark management system is being used by 175 member firms in the print, food production, and retail industries, 65% of which are at or above Gold certification. 159 New Zealand clients are members of the Enviro-Mark Programme; 81% are at or above Gold certification.
A strategy for harvesting brushtail possum fur, while meeting forest conservation outcomes, was developed with a rural Tūhoe community.   Several industry sectors are using our research to support improved performance


Managing cadmium in soils

Cadmium occurs in small quantities in phosphate fertilisers; it accumulates slowly in soils with regular fertiliser use and may be taken up by plants and animals. At higher levels, it may cause harm to the environment, livestock and human health. The National Cadmium Management Strategy is a government and private sector partnership aimed at managing the accumulation of cadmium in productive soils to ensure that there is minimal risk over the long term (the next 100 years at least). We provided the Fertiliser Association of New Zealand (FANZ) and MPI with a synthesis of current knowledge on the status of cadmium in New Zealand soils; methodologies for managing cadmium in soils, including soil guidelines values to ensure compliance with food safety standards and avoiding ecological effects; and models for predicting cadmiumaccumulation in soils. This information will support the Cadmium Management Group (representing agricultural and horticultural sector groups, the fertiliser industry, MfE, MPI and regional councils) in implementing the National Cadmium Management Strategy.

This research is part of the Realising Land’s Potential Portfolio, and is supported by MPI, FANZ and MBIE Core funding.

Environmental contaminants in biowaste

In collaboration with the ESR-led Centre for Integrated Biowaste Research (CIBR), we developed new approaches to more-comprehensively assess a range of environmental contaminants and their effects. Many of these contaminants are found in wastewater and biosolids from sewage treatment plants and farm effluent ponds. While land-based waste disposal can enhance forestry and pasture growth,contaminants in the effluent can adversely affect the health of soil ecosystems. Endocrine and thyroid disrupting compounds also have potential impacts on wildlife and humans. Greater awareness of the biological effects of such contaminants will be used by MfE and regional councils to support safer beneficial waste use.

This research is part of the Realising Land’s Potential Portfolio, and is supported by MBIE Core funding via a subcontract from ESR.

Mine site rehabilitation

We developed guidelines on mine rehabilitation for the West Coast Regional Council. These guidelines draw on existing information and experience but are specifically tailored to West Coast mine sites in forests and lowlands. Particular focus is given to methods readily applied to small and medium mine sites that generally have limited funds and equipment for rehabilitation. This work will provide an information base of use to all stakeholders (miners, the regional council and DOC), helping to improve expertise, relationships and rehabilitation outcomes.

We have also developed and put online several factsheets setting out best practice guidelines, flowcharts, and methodologies to rehabilitate native ecosystems and farmland. These complement other factsheets on reducing the adverse environmental impacts of mining. This work is a result of collaboration between CRL Energy, Landcare Research and the Universities of Canterbury and Otago, all of whom together won the 2014 Minerals West Coast Environment Award.

This work is part of the Realising Land’s Potential Portfolio, and was supported by EnviroLink and MBIE contestable funding.

Dung beetles released

Earlier this year, a technical advisory group considered additional research trials and reviews conducted by Landcare Research and ESR and approved release of dung beetles onto farmland. As a result, Landcare Research delivered five species of dung beetles to the Dung Beetle Release Strategy Group for release on selected farms across New Zealand. Extensive research into and use of dung beetles overseas shows they improve agricultural performance via better soil health, reduced nutrient and microbial runoff, greater pasture productivity, fewerfliesand reduced parasitic worm infection in livestock. Services provided by dung beetles could be worth many millions of dollars per year to our economy.

This work was part of the Realising Land’s Potential Portfolio, and was supported by MPI funding via the Dung Beetle Release Strategy Group, comprised of farmers, stakeholder groups and iwi representatives.

Botrytis in grapes

Because of the high costs of disease control measures and grape loss, Botrytis (bunch rot) is the most important disease of grapes in New Zealand. Different Botrytis species have different levels of both pathogenicity and fungicide resistance, as well as regional and seasonal differentiation – these are important, potentially-problematic factors in developing practical disease management strategies while minimising fungicide use.

Building on earlier research to characterise the Botrytis species implicated, we used genetic analyses to show that strong geographic variation exists in populations of Botrytis on flowering vines. However, these populations are different to the Botrytis associated with diseased fruit at harvest time, and the latter populations are almost uniform across the country. This is a 'good' result for the wine industry, as it means that Botrytis control strategies can have a national focus, and do not need to account for regional variation in the pathogen.

This research is part of the Supporting Trade and Defining Land Biota portfolios, and was supported by MBIE Contestable funding via a subcontract from Plant & Food Research. The PDD and ICMP collections are Core funded.

Wilding pines management

Wilding pines are a significant problem in New Zealand’s high country and tussock grasslands where they can threaten biodiversity, farm productivity and landscape values. In research to understand the invasive dynamics of wilding pines, we found that these tree species co-invade with mycorrhizal fungi (i.e. beneficial fungi on tree roots), and that wild animals such as deer and possums feed on and disperse these fungi. This is an example of multiple non-native species interacting to increase invasive success. In practical terms, this means that efforts to control wilding pines are likely to be more cost-effective if pest animals are also controlled at the same time.

Parallel research with Scion has developed an effective herbicide mix and methods to apply this to the crown of trees (for aerial weed control operations) or basal bark applications (for individual trees). This has greatly improved the effectiveness while lowering the cost of wilding conifer control. DOC is already using the new spraying system with success and expects a significant reduction in operating costs.

We are also beginning work with the Waimakariri Ecological Landscape Restoration Alliance (WELRA), a consortium of government, recreation groups, farmers, Ngāi Tahu and local councils. Our monitoring expertise is helping WELRA to determine the effectiveness of their efforts in controlling wilding tree spread and whether they are achieving desired outcomes.

This work is part of the Understanding Ecosystem Services Portfolio, and is supported by MBIE Core funding.

Online identification key for invasive Cotoneaster

Cotoneasters are frost-hardy ornamentals that are very common in established gardens. They are of increasing biosecurity concern as 15 species are now found in the wild; double the number known 25 years ago. Birds spread the bright red berries and now most of the common species are invasive weeds in forest and scrub and roadside banks, and are spreading onto productive farmland. Although DOC and regional council biosecurity staff have recorded new wilding populations, in some cases they have been uncertain of the species.

Cotoneaster is a taxonomically difficult genus with some species misnamed in New Zealand. Our review of the genus in New Zealand and the development of a new diagnostic key are of immediate benefit to biosecurity staff. They can now identify Cotoneaster species in weed populations and plants in abandoned gardens (a common issue in post-quake Christchurch) that should be destroyed. The online guide will also help plant nurseries and garden centres to identify Cotoneaster simonsii, which is on the National Plant Pest Accord (NPPA) banned-for-sale list.
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This work is part of the Defining Land Biota Portfolio, and was supported by MBIE Core funding.

Broom biocontrol

Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius) is one of New Zealand’s most widespread, intractable weeds affecting pastoral, forestry and conservation land. It costs at least $13 million a year in lost productivity and control operations. Effective long-term biocontrol will require several agents attacking the shrub in different ways and different seasons. While the broom seed beetle (Bruchidius villosus) is now widespread and can destroy at least 80% of the seed crop, the next most promising agent is the microscopic broom gall mite (Aceria genistae) that turns broom buds into large deformed lumps. The latter is well-established at early release sites, stunting broom growth and even killing entire plants. The impacts of these agents are being monitored in joint research with key stakeholders in the National Biocontrol Collective.
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This work is part of the Managing Invasive Weeds, Pests & Diseases Portfolio, and current work on the effectiveness of broom biocontrol agents is supported by MBIE Core funding.

Biological control for our worst aquatic weeds

The three worst submerged waterweeds in New Zealand are hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum), Brazilian waterweed (Egeria densa) and lagarosiphon (Lagarosiphon major). They are particularly difficult to control by physical removal or herbicides. However biological control could be an excellent solution. With overseas collaborators, we have identified two potential control agents for lagarosiphon and one for Brazilian waterweed. No biocontrol work has been conducted on hornwort elsewhere in the world so we are starting from scratch for that weed.

A biocontrol control programme against hornwort, Brazilian waterweed and lagarosiphon is estimated to cost between NZ$1.66 million and$1.83 million over 8 years. However, a cost–benefit analysis estimates that successful biocontrol of all three aquatic weeds across New Zealand would yield positive net benefits of several million dollars, with benefit to cost ratios (BCRs) ranging from 7:1 through to 15:1.

This work is part of the Managing Invasive Weeds, Pests & Diseases Portfolio, and is supported by the National Biocontrol Collective, with the economic feasibility study supported by MBIE Core funding.

Refining rabbit control on agricultural lands

Rabbit numbers continue to increase in many parts of New Zealand as the efficacy of rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD) continues to wane. Higher rabbit numbers are negatively impacting stocking rates and environmental values, and threatening the economic viability of farms in rabbit-prone areas. While recent research has identified a potential strain of RHD that may be useful as a booster, baiting remains the only practical broad-scale method for controlling rabbits at high densities. However, current baiting methods (broadcasting to obtain complete coverage of the treated area) are expensive. We have been trialling a new approach that substantially reduces the amount of bait, toxin andflight-time required.

Over the last three winters, we arranged strip-sowing trials in Otago and Hawke’s Bay. To date, results indicate similar kill efficacy (90–97%) to conventional broadcasting (89–98%), generating optimism among operational staff and landowners. Winter 2014 will be the final year of experimental trials for this study, and if similar results are obtained, aerial strip sowing of bait will be a ‘best practice’ option. We expect that, while costs vary between operations, the total cost is likely to be about 30% cheaper than broadcasting and use 66% less toxin per hectare.

This work is part of the Supporting Trade Portfolio, and was supported by MPI Sustainable Farming Fund and MBIE Contestable funding.

Animal welfare issues in pest control

In collaboration with MPI, we developed a national framework to assess animal welfare impacts of pest control (e.g. from trapping and poisoning). A research-based decision tool is now available to help DOC, councils and others involved in vertebrate pest control to select the most humane techniques for each control operation. We published the framework in the Scientific and Technical Review, the premier journal of the World Organisation for Animal Health.

This work is part of the Managing Invasive Weeds, Pests & Diseases Portfolio, and is supported by MPI funding.

Key performance indicator 4.2b: Bovine TB is eradicated from vector populations in two extensive forest areas in programmes responding to economic, social, cultural and environmental drivers.

Landcare Research is TBfree New Zealand’s leading science partner – in 2013/14, we undertook about 25 research projects, more than any other research provider. One of our senior staff is seconded 20% to the agency in an advisory and policy development role, and two others of our staff are members of TBfree New Zealand’s high level advisory groups. We also contribute to formal revocation reviews for declaring areas free of TB. Our team of five wildlife ecology and management scientists won the New Zealand Association of Scientists’ 2013 Shorland Medal for ‘major and continued contribution to basic or applied research that has added significantly to scientific understanding or resulted in significant benefits to society’ (page 42).

2010/11 Baseline situation: TB persisted in parts of New Zealand, including a few significant areas where possums and deer are the main wildlife hosts.

Progress 2011/12:

Progress 2012/13:

Progress 2013/14:

A quantitative framework has been developed for objectively assessing the probability that bovine TB has been eradicated from a specific forest area. The framework increases the costeffectiveness of eradication efforts by ensuring control measures are not stopped too soon or continued for longer than necessary. Using our framework, AHB declared TB had been eradicated from wildlife vectors over 400,000 ha. The TB programme is comfortably on track to meet or exceed its eradication targets. Using established and new concepts, have demonstrated a high chance TB has already been eradicated from the two key forest areas.
  Significantly-reduced costs of aerial pest control operations are enabling TBfree New Zealand, DOC and NGOs to extend coverage to new areas, to achieve both biodiversity and TB benefits. Nationally, around 800,000 ha has now been declared free of TB in wildlife.
    Both farmers and the public place a high value on the incidental benefits from TB possum control, particularly protection of native species.


New surveillance systems and tools

Sam Brown downloading data from a camera trap. Image - Bruce WarburtonPossums are the main wildlife vectors of TB in New Zealand, and are ultimately responsible for new infections in livestock in TB-risk areas (although animal movement between herds can amplify outbreaks). TB must therefore be eradicated from wildlife vectors before areas can safely be declared TB free. This requires not only intensive possum control to break the TB cycle, but also equally intensive surveillance to show the few remaining possums are free of TB. Currently, surveillance is implemented only after many years of control so the total cost is high. We have developed a new surveillance strategy that should significantly reduce the time, effort and cost required. The new strategy potentially allows the surveillance phase to be implemented far earlier in the process so that information about possum densities and the presence or absence of TB can be used to specify more precisely how much more control is needed. It also uses an estimate of the percentage of possums killed during the final control operation(s) to estimate the chance that all infected possums present (if any) were killed in a way that magnifies the statistical usefulness and power of the surveillance data. That should enable TB-possum control to be stopped sooner and more cheaply than currently. In addition, we have been developing novel ‘hi-tech’ monitoring systems such as camera traps. These provide new opportunities for monitoring, and may be particularly relevant to the new surveillance strategy. Because these new technologies are considerably less labour-intensive than on-the ground monitoring strategies (such as chewcards and trap lines), they are potentially cost-effective additions to the monitoring tool box.

This work is part of the Supporting Trade Portfolio, and was supported by MBIE Core funding and TBfree New Zealand.

Valuing non-market benefits of possum control

In a collaborative Core-funded investigation of the wider benefits of TB-related possum control, we worked with AERU of Lincoln University to survey New Zealand farmers in mid-2013. Most (80%) farmers considered that overall benefits of TB-possum control (both on and off their properties) equalled or exceeded what they pay (via industry levies) for control. They valued not only the reduction in risk of TB infection, but also the incidental reductions in possum damage to farm pasture, feed stocks, erosion control plantings and domestic gardens – some even regarded reduced possum abundance as a benefit in its own right. Importantly, farmers also valued the reduction in the possum threat to native plants and animals, not only on their own land but on conservation lands as well. These findings will help our major commercial client (TBfree New Zealand) argue the case for continuing the National Pest Management Plan for TB.

This work is part of the Supporting Trade Portfolio, and was supported by MBIE Core funding.