The future for crop protection: A Lighter Touch

02 Jun 2020 The future for crop protection: A Lighter Touch image

Even Auckland City is now realising the need to capture and store water. As a country, we are at a crisis point as climate change brings longer and more frequent droughts. Plants and humans need water to survive. If we are going to be able to feed ourselves fresh, healthy food in the future, then as a country, we need to waste no more time and put in place significant water storage schemes right now.

Water is not the only key ingredient for growing our food. Crops need to be protected from insects and disease just as humans do. Just ten years ago, a bacterial disease called PSA was rapidly killing kiwifruit plants and nearly finished our kiwifruit industry off. COVID-19 is having similar and devastating effects on humans.

The chemistry and methods for protecting plants and humans are evolving all the time. Consumers want safe and healthy food, and growers want to make sure they can provide that food. COVID-19 has taught us many lessons about the pre- COVID-19 world that we can only hope we learn and use as we re-design our future. What we relied on in the past cannot be the way of the future. This is exactly what the future for crop protection is all about.

As COVID-19 struck, a new research programme for plant protection was getting underway. It is called A Lighter Touch. This research programme will shift the focus from traditional crop protection to integrating biological and ecological processes into food production in New Zealand.

The Ministry for Primary Industries is a key funder contributing $10.8 million to the $27 million project. The rest – $16.2 million over the seven-year life of the project – is coming from New Zealand’s food and wine producers. The project will commercialise biopesticides and biological control agents, progressively replacing current crop protection regimes.

This project is very ambitious and world leading. Its success will increase investment in the horticulture, arable and wine sectors and enhance New Zealand’s reputation for sustainable growing. This is because it will provide growers with methods and tools to manage their crop protection in new and more sustainable ways.

Most importantly, it will give New Zealand’s growers more ways to take greater care of the environment, whereas today, there are only a few viable options for pest and disease control

That is why the project is so critical. It will speed up the development of agro-ecological crop protection techniques that are both environmentally sound and effective. This is one of our commercial plant producers’ contributions to the COVID-19 recovery – new-age sustainable biological crop protection assuring New Zealand’s place as the world’s premium producer of healthy food.

Click here to read the media release.

Mike Chapman, Chief Executive