Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

Issue 2, October 2013

In this issue:

Weed & Pest Management

topPredicting mast seeding and the ensuing predator problems

Researchers have identified the climate signal that triggers mast seeding in in New Zealand plants including beech trees.A new model has been developed to help predict ‘mast seeding’ in some New Zealand plants to allow land managers to prepare for the likely predator population explosions that follow.

Mast seeding is the production of unusually high quantities of seed that occurs in some plants in some years. It is quite common in New Zealand plants including beech trees, and also occurs in Northern Hemisphere trees such as oaks, beeches, pines and spruce. These occasional large flower and seed crops usually lead to big increases in populations of seed consumers (e.g. mice and rats) and consequently predator populations (e.g. stoats, feral cats).

Unfortunately when the introduced predators in New Zealand ecosystems increase they generally consume more native birds and insects.

Scientists have been trying to understand what triggers mast seeding so as to provide land managers with at least a one-year advance warning of a ‘predator pulse’. Previous research suggested that synchronised flowering cues are almost always weather-related, with warm temperature in the previous summer most often cited. But this predictive method has proved inconsistent.

In an internationally-significant discovery, a team led by University of Canterbury and Landcare Research scientists has found that the climate signal that triggers masting is the change in mean (average) summer temperature between the preceding two years, not simply temperature in the previous summer.

The researchers analysed 26 very long mast-seeding datasets from New Zealand spanning 15 species in five plant families. The length of time seed production and/or flowering was measured ranged from 15 to 43 years, and the data covered a range of different habitats (alpine to lowland) and plant life forms (trees, grasses, daisies). They also compared the results from the New Zealand datasets with 20 of the longest-running Northern Hemisphere datasets, covering 17 species from North America, Japan and Europe.

The findings consistently showed that a wide range of mast-seeding species respond to the difference in temperature from one growing season to the next, i.e. the change in mean summer temperature between the two preceding years.

The temperature-difference model was also a much better predictor of the rare phenomenon of consecutive high-seed events (double masts), which occur only after a specific sequence of cold/warm absolute summer temperatures. Double masts in beech forests in 1999/2000 led to increased predation of threatened endemic birds from Fiordland to the Marlborough Sounds.

The model, which uses existing climate information, is of ‘considerable importance’ to the Department of Conservation, according to Threats Science & Technical Manager (Central), Susan Timmins. ‘As it predicts mast seeding events a year in advance it gives conservation managers time to plan aerial 1080 operations that target seed-fuelled mouse, rat and stoat irruptions before they cause significant ecological harm.’

Contact: Andrea Byrom

topThe Trojan Female Technique

Landcare Research will collaborate with the University of Otago, Monash University (Australia) and the Agribusiness Group and Department of Primary Industries (Victoria, Australia) on a novel approach for specific, persistent, non-lethal and non-GMO pest control using a unique system called the ‘Trojan Female Technique’ or TFT.

Researcher Dan Tompkins says TFT works quite simply.

‘Naturally occurring mutations that cause male infertility have been identified in maternally inherited DNA. They have little or no impact on females, and hence are minimally or not selected against. While these mutations have only been identified in model systems such as fruit flies and mice, they are likely to be widespread in nature.’

The researchers aim to harness these mutations to develop a widely applicable capability for pest control, through the release of Trojan females carrying the mutations.

The TFT could provide effective control at greatly reduced effort and cost and would be widely applicable – from possums, rabbits, stoats and rats, to mites, aphids, moths and weevils – and could reduce current pest impacts (and associated management costs) as well as combat new pest incursions. Once developed, TFT application to new species would be inexpensive.

The TFT would be highly complementary to and most effective when combined with conventional pest control, Dan says.

Contact: Dan Tompkins

topPest workshop

Particpants at the pest workshopIdentifying research priorities was a key goal of our recent pest surveillance and detection research workshop, attended by council staff, community group leaders and other land managers.

Organised by researcher Andrea Byrom, the two-day seminar was a follow-up to DOC’s Pest Summit held last year and the idea was to highlight topics of interest grouped around four themes:

  • Eradication and suppression
  • Detection theory
  • High-tech detection technologies, and
  • Stakeholder needs and citizen science.

A diverse range of presenters covered a range of topics within each of the themes followed by break-out discussions and prioritisation of the research ideas. Later, there was a practical workshop at Lincoln University on camera traps.

The feedback from seminar participants was very positive.

‘The last two days have been wonderful, just to have such a large group of people made up of the scientists, community groups and regional councils and it was amazing just seeing the enthusiasm showed by everyone trying to find out about new technologies, how people are doing things and where we need to go in the next direction. It’s one of the best workshops I’ve ever been to,’ said Elaine Murphy from DOC/Lincoln University.

‘Part of the last few days has had good focus around the concept of predator-free New Zealand. Now, that’s a pretty aspirational, challenging vision. But ultimately we’re world leaders in this and we’ve got a challenge to connect the research, our own community work that we’re doing in a way that actually delivers on the vision,’ said Campbell Leckie of Hawke’s Bay Regional Council.

‘What was good for me is we saw a whole bunch of topics covering current science, slightly new stuff but also some things from left field which is what we need to think about if we’re going to change the game.’

Such was its popularity it’s likely this event will be repeated next year.

Contact: Andrea Byrom

Further information:

topInvestigating potential willow biocontrol

Stan BellgardNo-one wants their drinking water contaminated with chemical herbicide residues. Nonetheless, we need to control weeds that grow in and beside water (riparian weeds). Control of willows growing in wetland areas of New Zealand is typically done by cutting them down and then applying glyphosate to the cut stumps to prevent resprouting.

While this method undoubtedly reduces the amount of glyphosate entering waterways, when compared with aerial application, some of the chemical is still likely to be washed into catchments. Consequently, we have been exploring non-chemical alternatives for willow control in Auckland water-catchment areas, where there has been strong opposition to the use of chemicals by some residents.

We have found a living organism (the silver leaf fungus, Chondrostereum purpureum) that can damage willows and are investigating its potential to be used against them. A herbicide having a plant-pathogenic microbe as its active ingredient is called a bioherbicide. If the microbe is a fungus, as is the case here, then it belongs to a subset of bioherbicides called mycoherbicides.

There are many steps to the successful development of a mycoherbicide, and with respect to using silver leaf fungus against riparian weeds we are at the early stages. So far we have done some work on step 1 (finding a suitable pathogen), step 2 (finding a suitable isolate of that pathogen), and step 3 (developing a method for mass producing the organism). Some research by our colleagues at EnForm Tech has also been done on step 6 (developing an appropriate formulation and application technology).

Silver leaf fungus was identified as having potential for control of woody riparian weeds in Auckland water-catchments for two reasons: it has a wide host range among woody plants and it has already been developed successfully overseas as a cut-and-paste mycoherbicide, or rather as a ‘wood rot promoter’, a product that is much easier to register. The fungus is used to control red alder (Alnus rubra) and other woody weeds in utility rights-of-way (i.e. areas of forest cleared to make way for power lines etc.) in Canada and to control black cherry (Prunus serotina) and other woody weeds in plantation forests in the Netherlands. The products used in these two countries are ‘ChontrolTM’ or ‘EcoclearTM’ and ‘BioChonTM’ respectively.

Researcher Stan Bellgard says there are many isolates of silver leaf fungus stored in Landcare Research’s International Collection of Micro-organisms from Plants (ICMP) at Tamaki.

‘Three of these were grown in several different artificial media (liquid broths) to determine which, if any of them, could be easily grown in this way. While all three isolates grew in the broths, the amount (biomass) of silver leaf fungus produced varied significantly according to which broth was used and which isolate was grown. Happily, there was one clear winner in each case,’ he says.

‘The best broth was one containing malt extract, and the best isolate was one recovered from a Prunus (plum, peach or cherry) tree.

‘Now that we had a silver leaf isolate that we could grow easily in the lab we applied it to two species of willow in glasshouse experiments, to see if it could damage these weeds. The two willow species targeted were crack willow (Salix fragilis) and grey willow (S. cinerea).’

Stems of both crack and grey willow were harvested from a site in the Hunua Ranges – a southern water-catchment area of Auckland. Three- to four-metre lengths were cut in the field and transferred back to our laboratory at Tamaki where they were cut into smaller, 20-cm-long lengths for the experiment. One end of each stem was dipped in rooting hormone gel and planted in sterile potting mix. Each stem was then covered with one of the following four treatments: the silver leaf isolate in one of two different gel formulations, glyphosate 360 (full strength) in a commercially available gel formulation, or water (as a negative control).

After 22 weeks in a glasshouse the willow stems were harvested. We weighed them and counted the number of healthy and dead shoots. Small pieces of tissue were taken from each stem, surface sterilised (to remove contaminating organisms on the surface) and plated on to agar so that any fungi present within the willow tissue would grow.

‘We analysed the sequences of any fungi resembling the silver leaf fungus that grew from the tissue fragments and compared them with the sequence of the isolate we applied. This allowed us to tell whether the fungus we applied had successfully infected the woody stems and check that it wasn’t already present (through infection in the field) on the stems treated with water or glyphosate,’ Stan says.

The results of the glasshouse trial were promising.

‘Our selected silver leaf isolate was found infecting the stems of both crack willow and grey willow that had been treated with it, while it wasn’t present on the stems treated with water or glyphosate. Best of all, there were significantly more dead stems in the groups that were treated with one of the silver leaf fungus formulations when compared with the water treatment, for both species of willow. In fact, this silver leaf fungus formulation was just as effective as full-strength glyphosate when it came to killing cut stems. ‘When applied in the other formulation the fungus was just as effective as glyphosate on crack willow, but was significantly less effective than glyphosate (and statistically speaking, no better than water) on grey willow. Since we want to develop a mycoherbicide that can be used against several different woody weeds, the formulation that worked well on both willow species seems to be the better choice at present.’

With these promising results under our belt we applied the same four treatments to cut stems of crack and grey willow in the field. The field site was the same spot in the Hunua Ranges where the cut stems had been collected. After 32 weeks, 50% of all the cut and treated willow stumps had been colonised successfully by the silver leaf fungus. In the field, both of the gel formulations tested worked equally well with respect to allowing the fungus to colonise the cut stems. Data have been collected, but not yet analysed, on shoot regrowth and stem death. Once the analysis has been completed we will be able to compare the silver leaf treatments with the glyphosate and water treatments.

Fresh application of the mycoherbicide gel Grey willow stump after 3-months inoculation with cut-stump mycoherbicide gel
Fresh application of the mycoherbicide gel Grey willow stump after 3-months inoculation with cut-stump mycoherbicide gel

Our next steps towards developing a mycoherbicide for riparian weeds will be to ‘scale-up’ our production and ensure we can produce stable inoculum with a long shelf-life, and to test the efficacy of our selected isolate and formulations on other riparian weeds including basket willow (Salix viminalis) and privet (Ligustrum spp.). We also plan further fieldwork to test the impact of weather conditions on efficacy (i.e. application in summer vs winter) and to develop ‘liquid’ formulations that could be applied through drilling and/or injection into woody weeds. If results continue to be promising, the final steps will include identifying potential users and markets and finding a commercial sponsor so that a product can be registered and commercialised.

This research was funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment as part of the Beating Weeds Programme.

Contact: Stan Bellgard

Sustainable Development

topFirst release of dung beetles

Releasing dung beetles at a dairy farmAdditional species of dung beetles have been released in New Zealand following an exhaustive testing and consultation process. By burying the dung of large grazing animals, dung beetles improve soil health and pasture productivity, reduce water and nutrient runoff, as well as the reinfection of livestock by parasitic worms. There are also human health benefits as dung is a habitat for flies which spread disease.

New Zealand has forest-dwelling native dung beetles that do not live in pasture. One exotic species, the Mexican Dung Beetle has become established here but only in the warmer climate at the top of the North Island.

Members of the Dung Beetle Release Strategy Group (DBRSG) were joined by representatives from local authorities and science staff from Landcare Research at the release of Onthophagus taurus and Onthophagus binodus on an organic farm in Gore followed by another property in the Wairarapa.

The DBRSG was established by a group of farmers and other interested parties in 2008 with the objective of importing and releasing dung beetles to assist with the clean-up of pastoral dung of agricultural livestock. As part of that process Landcare Research was contracted to supply science and technical support.

Researcher Shaun Forgie, who worked with the DBRSG says "we are completing the missing link " by introducing the beetles."

When you bring in livestock into a country which doesn't have dung fauna you already have an imbalance in the system," he says.

Permission to import and release the beetles was received from the Environmental Risk Management Authority (now EPA) in February 2011 and the beetles were initially held in containment at Landcare Research until given disease clearance by the Ministry for Primary Industries. Once released from containment in 2012, beetles were mass reared at Landcare Research’s campuses at Lincoln and Tamaki. Some caged field trials were also undertaken to test how the beetles might perform.

Dung beetles search out the faeces of animals for food and reproduction. The species being introduced to New Zealand make tunnels in the soil beneath the faeces, which they then bury to lay eggs in. As the eggs hatch, the grubs feed on the dung so they break it down and eventually turn it into a sawdust-like material that adds to the fertility of the soil structure while all the time getting rid of dung sitting on top of the ground.

As the eggs hatch the grubs feed on the dung to grow and develop into new adults. Remaining dung not eaten by the grubs is utilised by earthworms and microorganisms in the soil that make the nutrients available for uptake by grass roots. Buried dung has been shown to increase earthworm numbers, increase soil fertility, improve soil structure, and increase the depth at which grass roots grow. Consequently grass becomes more drought tolerant. At the same time dung beetles get rid of dung sitting on top of the pasture, reducing forage foul and forage avoidance around repugnant dung.

While dung does decompose naturally, intensive farming means the amounts of dung dropped are large, which can lead to environmental problems such as leaching of nutrients into waterways and reduced pasture production because of increased forage fouling.

Project Manager for the DBRSG Andrew Barber says the release marked the end of a long process to get the beetles introduced and was an ‘extremely exciting’ step in improving New Zealand’s agricultural performance.

‘I truly believe that dung beetles have the potential to transform New Zealand’s pastoral-based agricultural system. More production at a lower environmental cost is a terrific story. I foresee a time when our grandchildren will not believe that paddocks were once covered with dung.’

New Zealand has some native dung beetles but they are not adapted to living in open modified habitats such as livestock pastures. A tropical species, Copris insertus, was introduced in 1956 but due to climate limitations is restricted to the north of the country. Two accidentally introduced Australian Onthophagus species are widespread, but have limited impact, because they are small beetles that bury less dung and do not build up high population densities.

Dung beetles have environmental and economic benefits:

  • Improved soil health and reduced runoff. Increased aeration and water penetration into the soil through beetle tunnels reduce urine and liquid dung surface runoff, reducing microbial contamination, leachate pollution, and eutrophication of waterways.
  • Greater pasture productivity. Stock will not graze around dung pats, reducing pasture productivity, and burial of nutritious manure by dung beetles enhances grass growth, reducing reliance on fertiliser inputs. Solid fertiliser is one of the biggest working expenses on most livestock farms.
  • Reduced fly pests and human disease. Nuisance flies breed in dung but are outcompeted for resources by fast-dung-burying beetles.
  • Reduced infection by parasitic worms of livestock. Dung burial, feeding and manipulation by dung beetles can reduce the infective stages of parasitic worms of livestock. This would reduce the reliance on drenching stock in the longer term as dung beetle populations grow.
<em>Onthophagus binodis</em> <em>Onthophagus taurus</em>
Onthophagus binodus Onthophagus taurus


Andrew Barbour
Dung Beetle Release Strategy Group
Ph: 0274 983 620 or 09 412 5520 (wk)

Shaun Forgie

Further information:

  • A full description of the project and answers to many of the questions that have been raised during the course of the past few years can be found on the DBRSG’s website: Dung beetles in New Zealand

topMerger creates large environmental certification business

tLandcare Research created one of the largest certifiers for environmental credentials in New Zealand by integrating its three programmes into one subsidiary.

The CEMARS and carboNZero greenhouse gas certification programmes and Enviro-Mark environmental management system programme, which collectively serve more than 400 businesses, are now provided by a wholly-owned subsidiary called Enviro-Mark Solutions Limited.1

The company name signals the future direction of the subsidiary, according to Chief Executive Dr Ann Smith.

‘Bringing the three excellent programmes together makes us the platform for environmental credibility in New Zealand and beyond. This will enable us to grow the business, implement new and exciting online resources, and provide more options to help businesses improve their environmental performance,’ Dr Smith says.

‘For example, Landcare Research has expertise in other environmental impact areas, so we have the potential to offer a broader range of programmes and related certification marks as interest in improving environmental performance continues to heighten.’

In addition to providing enhanced products and services, Ann says bringing the programmes into the single company would create efficiency improvements for existing programme members, and would enable networking to share best practice with a larger number of like-minded organisations.

Contact: Austin Hansell

1 Until now the Enviro-Mark programme has been managed by Landcare Research and the two greenhouse gas certification programmes have been provided by a wholly-owned subsidiary called carboNZero Holdings.

Further information:

topMaximising the value of irrigation

Research providing the best options for irrigation hardware, advanced scheduling and control systems that ensure water is applied where, when, and in the amount needed.Diverse projects aimed at boosting agricultural productivity and ensuring more effective pest control are among those that have received significant new Government funding.

Landcare Research scientists have secured funding of $14 million in the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s 2013 science investment round for Biological Industries and the Environment.

In the Environment sector Landcare Research secured $5.1m in projects around smarter natural resource management and developing trustworthy biodiversity measures. In the Biological sector the Crown Research Institute secured a total of $9.4m for the projects we lead around maximising the value of irrigation and the ‘Trojan Female Technique’ of pest control.

In one project researcher Carolyn Hedley will investigate enhancing the efficiency of irrigation systems, which will mean maximising the efficiency of how we apply water and in doing so achieve economic and environmental benefits. The six-year project is in collaboration with Plant & Food Research, the Foundation for Arable Research, Massey University and Lincoln AgriTech.

Carolyn has spent much time developing the idea of variable-rate irrigation where the amount of water applied to a paddock is determined by the type of soil and its specific requirements for water.

New methods for interpreting data into high-resolution soil maps and methods for linking these data to software tools for irrigation management will be developed, while crop-focused research will develop new methods to forecast irrigation requirements accurately in specific areas of paddocks that can then be scaled to wider on-farm outcomes.

This work will determine the best options for irrigation hardware, advanced scheduling and control systems that ensure water is applied where, when, and in the amount needed. It will also provide effective audited self-management systems that provide accurate estimates of nitrogen leaching under irrigation and recommendation and demonstration of soil, crop and irrigation management to improve retention of water for plant use in soils.

Contact: Carolyn Hedley

topSmarter natural resource management

Another of the MBIE funded assignments is a six-year research project  to enable better resource management by mainstreaming biodiversity and ecosystem services in decision-making. This will be done  through design of a process to understand the flow of services from biodiversity and to assess impacts of policy and practices on biodiversity and the subsequent flow of ecosystem services from landscapes.

Ecosystem services include products like clean drinking water and processes such as the decomposition of waste that are supplied by ecosystems. Current resource management tends to focus on the services that have direct economic benefits, or target single issues of concern or greatest public profile.

Researcher Suzie Greenhalgh says the project will provide an alternative approach to resource management decision-making that recognises the importance of biodiversity – considering the multiple ecosystem services that underpin green growth and market credentials, protect our investments in primary production and enhance our quality of life.

Managing ecosystems well will boost the productivity and value of New Zealand’s environment-based industries. However, development and intensification of land use often results in degradation of biodiversity and many ecosystem services.

Contact: Suzie Greenhalgh

topUpdated survey of rural decision makers

Many readers will recall that we outlined some results from the ‘Survey of Rural Decision Makers’ in our last e-newsletter. Those results highlighted interesting new data on our primary industry in Canterbury, Southland, and Waikato and provided useful information for both policy makers and land managers.

The initial three-region survey was followed by a more extensive complementary survey across the rest of New Zealand. All told, more than 1500 people representing all 16 regions took part in the surveys to share information about their farms, forests, and growing operations. Topics covered in this comprehensive survey included demographics, employment and income, land use, rural networks, land management practices, and outlook and planning.

The surveys were designed to provide better information on economic behaviour to agent-based models, including Landcare Research's Agent-based Rural Land Use New Zealand (ARLUNZ) model. ARLUNZ is designed to analyse the impact of farm policies on land use, farm returns, and environmental impacts while accounting for complexities such as farmer demographics, risk tolerance, social networks, and perceived trustworthiness of various sources of information

Researcher Pike Brown says the data also tell interesting stories by themselves.

“For example, women represent a higher share of decision-makers in Northland than in any other region while farmers in Wellington have more education than farmers in other parts of the country.

“As another example, there is wide variation in the take-up of management practices such as fencing streams, developing nutrient management plans, and wintering off stock, both across regions and across land uses.”

Pike says other interesting findings include arable farmers appearing more willing to experiment while dairy farmers are less willing to do so.

Meanwhile, veterinarians, other farmers, and scientists are consistently the most trusted sources of information about farming while central government, councils, and television are the least trusted sources.

Landcare Research is making several hundred tables and figures showing these and other results available to policy makers and land owners.

Contact: Pike Brown

Further information:

topLiving roofs in Auckland

Researcher Robyn Simcock has teamed up with Elizabeth Fassman-Beck from the University of Auckland to produce a practical guide for the design of extensive living roofs suitable to the Auckland climate. Called “Living Roof Review and Design Recommendations for Stormwater Management,” the technical report is available free.

Living roofs are a water sensitive design (WSD) technology for stormwater management and the term living roof is used to describe a substrate (growing media) and vegetation covered roof. Rooftops comprise a significant proportion of the total impervious area in urban settings and considerable opportunity exists to reduce stress on stormwater and combined sewer reticulation and other receiving environments through living roof installation on new buildings and retrofits on existing roofs. Living roofs offer two advantages for urban stormwater management: they act as at -source control to prevent runoff generation from an otherwise impervious area, and they provide stormwater management opportunity in otherwise usually unused space (rather than more valuable ground space). In addition, living roofs provide a range of other benefits from urban heat island and energy demand mitigation to biodiversity an d habitat creation to aesthetic improvements and amenity value. The focus of this manual is design instruction, with priority placed on design for stormwater management.

Contact: Robyn Simcock

Further information

Land and water

topIndigenous Australian tour of New Zealand

Researchers Shaun Awatere and Garth Harmsworth hosted a group of Aboriginal leaders and senior policy officials from the Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) recently in Auckland and the Kaipara. This was part of a week-long tour organised by Whariki Māori research group, Auckland, Gail Tipa (Ngāi Tahu – South Island part of visit), and Landcare Research.

Most of the indigenous group represented aboriginal nations from across Australia but mainly from the Murray–Darling Basin (1,061,469 km2), which includes 77,000 km of rivers, creeks and other watercourses and an estimated 30,000 wetlands. The Murray Darling is facing significant water shortage, overallocation and degradation issues that are having significant widespread impacts on ecological, social, economic, and cultural values.

The main purpose of the visit was that delegates believed the work being undertaken and driven by Māori in New Zealand is highly relevant to water planning in Australia, and that cross-cultural environmental research and management could greatly help to inform indigenous leaders in the Basin. There is a priority in Australia for Government, science, and industry agencies to engage with and involve indigenous communities in water planning and use; however, there are many issues such as stated below from their reports.

In Australia and within the Murray–Darling Basin there is a general mistrust of scientists and scepticism of Western science within indigenous communities based on past experiences, where cultural knowledge has often been gathered and used without appropriate consent. Aboriginal people generally have very little buy-in to scientific processes and continue to be concerned about the control and access to, what is for them, very sensitive information.

Currently, the MDBA and other water management agencies operating in the Basin do not possess a clear understanding of the cultural needs of indigenous people.

On the Auckland–Kaipara leg of the tour, the Australian visitors were welcomed and spoken to by Ngāti Whatua iwi members at Ōrākei Marae, Auckland, and by Te Uri o Hau at Ōtamatea Marae in the Kaipara and there were several field visits. The Australians wanted to know how Māori have effectively incorporated cultural perspectives into contemporary natural resource management using various cultural tools (e.g. values mapping, CHI, cultural opportunities mapping). Many of the topics discussed therefore covered the Māori ‘environmental values’ framework based on Māori principles, values, protocols, customs and aspirations; Māori methodologies for recording, evaluating and articulating cultural values; iwi/hapū environmental management plans; cultural monitoring approaches; Māori involvement in natural resource management in New Zealand and governance arrangements for managing water.

Our intention is to facilitate an opportunity for our indigenous leaders to gain insight into the various methodologies and approaches that have been developed in New Zealand and ascertain for themselves what benefits have been gained by Māori participating communities.

Contact: Garth Harmsworth

topS-Map Online tutorial

We think the National Soils Database S-map Online tool is already very user-friendly but if you’ve been a little unsure of exactly how to go about utilising its many features then extra help is now just a mouse click away.

We’ve just produced the first of several video tutorials on using S-map and they’re now available on YouTube. Soil scientist James Barringer takes you through a series of simple steps to get you underway.

topResearch to reduce nitrate leaching loss

Our researchers are part of a $24 million project to reduce nitrate leaching from dairy, arable, beef sheep and mixed farms, also part of the MBIE funding.

To be run over six years the project will combine research across Lincoln Hub partners AgResearch, Dairy NZ, Landcare Research, Lincoln University and Plant & Food Research to support innovation and environmental management.

Landcare Research’s contribution to the Dairy NZ-led project is based on further development of the pipe lysimeter, with the aim of developing a sampling device that can measure leaching at the large plot or paddock scale, under forage crop grazing. Current devices are limited because of the large number needed to account for the random distribution of urine patches, the need to cultivate the plot, and potential damage from cattle for surface-exposed devices.

Landcare Research has been leading ongoing research projects into the more effective development and use of different types of lysimeters and in 2012 installed a prototype pipe lysimeter on a dairy farm at Methven.

Contact: Sam Carrick

topAntarctic expedition nears

Researchers will visit the Auckland Islands as part of an expedition to mark the centenary of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition led by the great scientist and explorer Sir Douglas Mawson.Three Landcare Research scientists are gearing up for an expedition to New Zealand’s subantarctic islands, part of a wider expedition commemorating a century of discovery of the islands and Antarctica.

2013–2014 marks the centenary of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition led by the great scientist and explorer Sir Douglas Mawson.

However, in spite of decades of research – including aerial and satellite surveys – remarkably little is known about these islands and the great continent itself. The Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) will focus its efforts on Antarctic Commonwealth Bay and subantarctic islands to provide the first complete snapshot of this region for a century.

The first leg of the journey departs Bluff on 27 November for 10 days and visits the Snares, Auckland and Campbell islands. On board will be Matt McGlone, Janet Wilmshurst and Sarah Richardson, part of a wider team of scientists who are world experts in the natural and physical sciences and also passionate about science communication. The second leg of the journey leaves from Bluff on 8 December and heads to Commonwealth Bay in Antarctica.

Science students and members of the public with an interest in these areas can take part in the expedition. Key research programmes will be addressed in oceanography, climate and biology.

Further information:


topBiodiversity measures

As part of the MBIE funding Landcare Research staff will develop robust processes for building credible, reliable and repeatable biodiversity metrics – or indicators – that allow for meaningful reporting to local communities and national and international forums.

The processes will be applicable to a range of environmental metrics and their use will support New Zealand in efforts to maintain and grow our $25.4 billion agricultural-export and $5.8 billion tourism industries, meet national and international reporting obligations, identify at-risk biodiversity components and facilitate their management.

Researcher Catriona MacLeod says actively involving stakeholders in the design process for biodiversity metrics will ensure communication strategies for reporting that are useful, trusted and clearly understood.

‘Applying robust and harmonised processes for aggregating and scaling metrics will enable reporting that is comparable from local to national scales, that reflects different biodiversity values and preferences, and is fit-for-purpose such as to track New Zealand’s biodiversity status; support and enhance branding campaigns, environmental credentials and market access; and demonstrate the value of partnerships.’

Trust in biodiversity metrics will be built by tailoring them, and associated communication strategies, to meet specific stakeholder goals and values.

Contact: Catriona MacLeod

topPond borders can benefit bees

Ten irrigation ponds (black areas) in the Ashburton area, with a total perimeter of 6962 m. A five-metre strip will give a 3.48-ha area for planting trees for bees.Irrigation pond borders offer a great opportunity to increase biodiversity on farms without impacting on productive land, new research shows.

Our scientists used remote sensing – computer analysis of satellite images – to demonstrate that in just one 5-km-diameter circle near Ashburton there are 10 irrigation ponds whose otherwise bare banks could provide almost 3.5 ha of available land to support more diverse plant and animal life.

Landcare Research pollination expert Dr Linda Newstrom-Lloyd, who also leads the Trees for Bees NZ programme, says if that land – and areas like it throughout New Zealand – was planted in bee-friendly tree and shrub species then nutrition sources would be available to answer the increasing demand for pollination services in the region and help avert a pollinator crisis.

‘We know that more intensive farming practices are having an impact on biodiversity,’ she says.

 ‘We could use this unproductive land around irrigation ponds to improve biodiversity – and there are subsidies available to help fund biodiversity plantations on farms.

‘If the five-metre-wide borders of all 10 irrigation ponds in our highlighted area were planted in suitable bee-friendly trees and shrubs, then bees foraging from hives located in the middle of that area would have access to more than 20,000 nutritious plants.’

Apiculture Officer Marco Gonzalez of Trees for Bees NZ says innovative farmers are planting species that provide nutrition in the most critical seasons – early spring and autumn – when there is not much else in flower. This will produce larger, stronger bee colonies ready for pollination services required for crops in the summer.

‘We now have four demonstration farms around the country that illustrate what can be done to improve bee nutrition.’

John Evans’ arable farm with 400 m of pond margin planted with bee-friendly trees and shrubs: at four months old.Planting around irrigation ponds is a good way to suppress weeds at the same time as providing more biodiversity for bee nutrition. Ashburton arable crop farmer John Evans has planted 1557 trees and shrubs that will supply high-protein pollen during the spring and autumn periods. The extra boost from this nutrition will build up the bee colonies in his apiary to optimal strength and contribute to the pollination services he needs in summer. The plantation also adds value through beautifying the pond margin and increasing biodiversity on the farm.

The Trees for Bees NZ team, chaired by Ross Little, is delighted that the research programme has recently been awarded a new grant from the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Farming Fund. The focus will be on planting bee forage on all types of farms. Most important are those farms that are already planting for other reasons such as riparian strips and erosion control programmes.

The Trees for Bees NZ programme is developing a new expanded plant list based on research to date on protein content in pollen. These plant species will be added to the national list of bee forage plants for New Zealand and will supplement the 10 Federated Farmers Trees for Bees regional Bee Plant Guides.

In the next three years we will develop model planting designs for different farm types and determine guidelines and best practices for customising these designs for different farm operations. To keep updated on the project, see the new Trees for Bees NZ website and ‘like us’ on facebook.


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