NZ Lifestyle Block - - Contents -

led by Plant & Food Re­search will un­der­take a pilot study this sum­mer to de­ter­mine if na­tive birds can con­trol pests in or­chards.

Sci­en­tists will catch and re­lease na­tive birds such as tui, ko­ri­mako (bell­bird), pi­wakawaka ( fan­tail), riro riro (grey war­bler) and tauhou (sil­ver­eye) into ap­ple, wine grape, berry and plum or­chards in Palmer­ston North, Levin and Ohau.

Next-gen­er­a­tion se­quenc­ing (NGS), a Dna-based method, will be used to iden­tify in­sect DNA from fae­ces, to dis­cover which in­sects the birds favour.

“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,” says Karen Ma­son, Project Leader at Plant & Food Re­search.

“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 non­in­va­sive ap­proach.”

The study, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Dr Is­abel Cas­tro from Massey Univer­sity, is part of a wider vi­sion to in­cor­po­rate more na­tive plants and an­i­mals into NZ’S hor­ti­cul­tural pro­duc­tion sys­tem.

At­tract­ing birds to or­chards may also have sec­ondary ben­e­fits. For ex­am­ple, some na­tive nec­tiv­o­rous birds are highly ter­ri­to­rial, so they may help keep other fruit-eat­ing birds away.

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

“We should work (with birds) to build a more sus­tain­able fu­ture.”

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