A spe­cial role for our na­tive birds?

The Northland Age - - Local News -

A team led by Plant & Food Re­search is to un­der­take a pi­lot study this sum­mer to de­ter­mine if na­tive birds can po­ten­tially func­tion as na­ture’s pest con­trol agents.

With the bless­ing of iwi, sci­en­tists will catch and re­lease birds in­clud­ing tu¯¯ı, ko­ri­mako (bell­bird), p¯ıwakawaka (fan­tail), riro riro (grey war­bler) and tauhou (sil­ver­eye) cur­rently present in ap­ple, wine grape, berry and plum or­chards in Palmer­ston North, Levin and O¯ hau, us­ing next-gen­er­a­tion se­quenc­ing (NGS), a DNA-based method, to iden­tify in­sect DNA from their fae­ces, so they can see which in­sects they pre­fer to feed on.

“Birds could prove to be an ex­cel­lent ad­di­tion to the or­chard ecosys­tem, par­tic­u­larly if they pre­fer to eat in­sect pests over in­sects that ben­e­fit grow­ers,” project leader Karen Ma­son said.

“The NGS tech­nol­ogy will help us bet­ter un­der­stand what in­sects na­tive birds like to eat, and whether they should be en­cour­aged or dis­cour­aged from the or­chard en­vi­ron­ment. This new tech­nol­ogy has ad­van­tages over tra­di­tional meth­ods, of­fer­ing a fast, ac­cu­rate and rel­a­tively non-in­va­sive ap­proach.”

The study, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Dr Isabel Cas­tro, from Massey Uni­ver­sity, was part of a wider vi­sion to in­cor­po­rate more na­tive plants and an­i­mals into the hor­ti­cul­tural pro­duc­tion sys­tem, re­garded as po­ten­tially lead­ing to a win­win sit­u­a­tion for in­dus­try, bio­di­ver­sity, sus­tain­abil­ity and na­tive taonga con­ser­va­tion.

It is hoped the project will pro­vide some in­sight into an­other po­ten­tial tool for grow­ers to re­duce chem­i­cal pes­ti­cides re­quired to grow crops, thereby help­ing to meet the re­quire­ments of ex­port mar­kets, re­tail­ers and con­sumers to min­imise the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of food.

At­tract­ing birds to or­chards may also have sec­ondary ben­e­fits. For ex­am­ple, some nec­tiv­o­rous birds are highly ter­ri­to­rial, so may help keep other fruiteat­ing birds away.

“Our na­tive species po­ten­tially have so much to of­fer. We should work with them to build a more sus­tain­able fu­ture,” Ms Ma­son said.

The team planned to ex­pand the pi­lot study to look in-depth at na­tive species and the ser­vices they could pro­vide, and es­tab­lish col­lab­o­ra­tions with grow­ers and Ma¯ori com­mu­ni­ties, she said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.