Tuesday, 25 February, 2014 - 13:37

In June 2013, Landcare Research joined the Better Border Biosecurity (B3) collaboration, enabling B3 to provide an even more coordinated and integrated approach to terrestrial plant border biosecurity. The inclusion of Landcare Research in B3 means that all of the land-focused Crown Research Institutes (CRIs) are now represented within the research collaboration. Landcare Research’s strengths in non-target risk assessment, molecular diagnosis of plant pathogens and applied mathematical modelling in particular will strengthen B3’s capacity, capability and expertise.

B3 Chair Dr James Buwalda said, “With the inclusion of Landcare Research’s skills and expertise, the B3 collaboration is now able to provide a more integrated and comprehensive approach to managing the risks of pest incursions to New Zealand’s productive and indigenous ecosystems. Their commitment to the B3 collaboration also reinforces the value of organisations working together to...

Thursday, 13 February, 2014 - 10:47

In October this year, the International Plant Sentinel Network (IPSN) was officially launched at the 5th Global Botanic Gardens Congress hosted by the Dunedin Botanic Gardens. The IPSN will develop a community of botanic gardens and arboreta around the world that will use ‘sentinel’ plants to provide early warning of new and emerging tree and plant pests and diseases.  The Network’s launch was part of a symposium organised by the Better Border Biosecurity (B3) Programme called “Sentinel Plants for Biosecurity Risk Assessment”.

Dr Nigel Bell, AgResearch scientist and Project Leader for the B3 project, ‘Biosecurity risk in natural ecosystems’, was the key organiser for the symposium, which aimed to raise awareness of the value of botanic gardens and plant collections internationally to assist in the identification of potential plant pests which could threaten indigenous plants in their area of origin. IPSN is founded on the notion that living plant collections at botanic gardens around the world are capable of serving as early warning systems to help predict and prevent the incursion of new pests (invertebrates and pathogens) that threaten native plants.

The six presentations in the symposium described examples of...

Tuesday, 22 October, 2013 - 08:31


Flock Hill Station, Craigieburn Valley,
Cass, Canterbury

As part of the B3: Better Border Biosecurity’s Risk Assessment Theme, Dr Kirstin McLean, a scientist at the Bio-Protection Research Centre, has recently completed research that will help regulatory agencies assess the potential impacts of new microbial biocontrol agents on native ecosystems. The reference to the publication from this research is shown below*.


Dr McLean began this research, because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA; then known as the Environmental Risk Management Authority) needed more experimental data to develop an effective screening program for the introduction of new microbial biocontrol agents into New Zealand. Although they had some experience testing “classical” fungal biocontrol agents that were introduced to control invasive weeds, no applications had been approved for importing microbial biocontrol agents whose role was to protect plants from pathogens.

To fill this knowledge gap, Dr McLean’s research focused on a native isolate of Trichoderma atroviride already available commercially in New Zealand...

Friday, 30 August, 2013 - 14:10

A unique and comprehensive database called Eco Invertebase is helping New Zealand and overseas scientists to test the impact of various stressors such as biological control agents on native and valued introduced invertebrates. The database is housed on the B3 website (http://b3nz.org/) and was developed by scientists in Plant & Food Research in B3 and the Optimising Environmental Risk Assessment (OpERA) programmes.

The Eco Invertebase holds information on New Zealand invertebrate taxa, including data describing their biology, ecology, distribution and reproduction. The data entered into the database are limited to published data to ensure its integrity and accuracy. This information feeds into a model called PRONTI (Priority Ranking of Non-Target Invertebrates), which was developed by the OpERA group as a method of more consistently and objectively deciding which non-target invertebrate species should be tested in a laboratory as part of a risk assessment to determine the potential effects of genetically modified (GM) plants before they are released into the environment.

PRONTI works by ranking organisms in the Eco Invertebase by their degree of risk from the stressor, and hence their priority for testing. The higher the ranking given to an invertebrate, the greater its priority for testing. The model can specifically look at...

Friday, 9 August, 2013 - 06:45


Helicoverpa armigera (corn-ear worm)
Fig. 1. Helicoverpa armigera (corn-ear worm), an internationally
distributed major pest, is one of the model insects used for this

“Has it just arrived or not?” and “Where is it from?” are questions biosecurity officials often ask when an exotic insect invader is discovered in New Zealand. A B3 research project investigating natural abundance stable isotopes and trace elements as geolocality markers is helping the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to deal with this uncertainty for more timely, appropriate and cost-effective biosecurity operational decisions.

A key concern for MPI is to know when a new find of a high risk pest in New Zealand represents a fresh incursion, and therefore requires only a localised response. Alternatively, if it is found the pest already has an established population in New Zealand then a much more extensive response is required. To know which of these situations apply would greatly assist with determining when expensive eradication responses are necessary, and when they...

Tuesday, 27 November, 2012 - 10:11

Dr. Tara Strand monitors the aerial spray field trial completed to quantify the interaction between the aircraft wake under different operating conditions (combinations of helicopter type, release height, and flying speed) and the pergola canopy.  This work was also done to assist Zespri® with their battle against Psa.

Aerial pesticide application is often used in pest eradication programmes, particularly when the pest is widespread or located in the tops of tree canopies. Spray treatments are most effective when there is good spray coverage throughout the canopy. 

A research programme based at Scion and supported by Better Border Biosecurity (B3) has focused on several ways of improving the effectiveness of aerial spraying while minimising the associated risks.

First, the development of spray deposition models that are applied to a wide range of aerial spray application scenarios are helping scientists to understand how spray deposition and coverage varies with different application techniques...

Thursday, 8 November, 2012 - 10:01

It is estimated that 30-40% of the plant species grown in botanic gardens around the world are exotic species that originate from a different country or even landmass. This distribution of plants outside their native range presents a significant opportunity to understand and predict which exotic insect or pathogen species that are not yet present in a country could become invasive there in the future.

An initiative known as the International Plant Sentinel Network seeks to capitalise on this potential in order to leverage various governments’ investments into 2,500 botanic gardens and arboreta in jurisdictions throughout the world in order to assist border biosecurity. B3 is now contributing to and championing the initiative in New Zealand, along with a significant contribution from Scion and recently Canterbury University via a summer student fellowship.

The International Plant Sentinel Network works by liaising with collaborators such as staff of botanic gardens and arboreta to assist with tasks such as regularly monitoring plant health, taking photographs of pests and diseases...

Tuesday, 30 October, 2012 - 15:25

In August, a group of B3 researchers travelled to Daegu, South Korea to present papers on their research at the 24th International Congress of Entomology. The conference is held every four years and this year’s theme was “A New Era of Entomology”. Over 2,300 researchers from around the world attended the event.

 Dr Barbara Barratt from AgResearch presented an invited keynote presentation on whether knowledge of a parasitoid’s natural host range always helps predict the species’ host range in new areas of introduction.

She reported on a retrospective study that compared the natural host range of Microctonus aethiopoides in Morocco with its novel host range found in Australia and New Zealand, where it has been introduced to control the adult stage of the weevil Sitona discoideus, a pest of lucerne in the family Leptopiini. The study found that the absence of Leptopiini in Morocco and the record of a native Australian leptopiine host could have indicated that native weevils in this tribe in...

Thursday, 18 October, 2012 - 13:32

Surveillance for the early detection of invasive species is costly and imperfect. Every year, thousands of pheromone-baited traps are deployed to detect high-impact pests such as gypsy moths and fruit flies, and all of these traps must be physically inspected fortnightly.  

The Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) currently spends around $2 million annually on surveillance trapping to protect our primary industries and natural forests from fruit flies and gypsy moths. Around half the cost of these operations is incurred by inspectors needing to check each trap regularly.

 Significant savings are therefore possible if physical trap inspections could be minimised or even eliminated. In addition, physical trap inspections are not ideal, because there may be a significant delay between when an insect is trapped and when it is detected. During this time, the pest may increase and spread further within the environment. 

To solve these problems, a team of B3 researchers led by Dr Scott Hardwick of AgResearch has been investigating the use of ‘smart trap’ options, which incorporate remote sensor technology into the...

Monday, 13 August, 2012 - 21:22

Forest insects that travel the world via global trade can easily become serious pests outside their native home. To address this issue, the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) at the University of California, Santa Barbara assembled a group of scientists, economists and policy analysts. Their aim was to assess the costs and benefits of reducing movements of forest insect pests and pathogens by implementing phytosanitary (biosecurity) measures that apply to internationally traded goods.

Dr Eckehard Brockerhoff, principal scientist at Scion (New Zealand Forest Research Institute) and Theme Leader of the Better Border Biosecurity (B3) Pathway Risk Management Theme, contributed to the group through his knowledge of the relationship between pest arrival rates and establishment rates.

The NCEAS project team estimated the ecological and economic impacts of invasive insect pests and diseases, as well as quantifying the costs and benefits of phytosanitary policy that would reduce the biosecurity risks associated with trade. Brockerhoff says the team aimed to determine whether phytosanitary policies would provide a net benefit in monetary terms.


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