Jeff’s update includes a summary of the Project 6.2 report, formation of the Agroecology Technical Working Group, and updates on projects within Theme 2.

Project 6.2
This month we re-distributed the revised MS6.2 report from Plant & Food Research on enhancing agroecosystems for biological control. The report will be available on the website.
The report is an important foundation document for A Lighter Touch. It will inform a number of projects we have planned to address the following questions and issues:

  • Understand the agroecological crop protection (ACP) knowledge gaps that exist;
  • Aid in the commercial availability of crop protection products and BCA’s enabling ACP programming;
  • Provide evidence that softer crop protection approaches do work;
  • Inform the Programme where crop protection enhancements will lead to better outcomes than just substituting products;
  • Address the limitations of agroecological approaches, particularly softer crop protection products;
  • Identify where antagonistic actions may occur so that they can be avoided or mitigated;
  • Understand resistance risk and how biopesticides and enhanced agroecosystems can assist in managing this risk.

Technical Working Group:
I am putting together the core of the technical working group for the agroecology side of the programme. The team, when ratified, will have a strong technical focus from across various sectors, includes a mix of science backgrounds, practical and commercial application, and all with enthusiasm for ALT and our industry in general. I have received nominations for some more specialised people who we look forward to involving in the programme as it develops. Thanks to those who have put their hand up to be involved or put forward nominations – the programme will benefit greatly from the input of everyone involved.

Project 5 – Biopesticides path to market:
MS5.1 candidate biopesticides for commercialisation – through our gaps and priorities exercise we have had a number of biopesticides put forward for screening trials planned for this season, we have also received some potential local candidates to test the regulatory system. A contract will be let to identify biopesticides available or near commercialisation from around the world that would have a fit for our participant sectors, the request for proposals goes out at the end of November.
MS5.2 the pathway to biopesticide registration continues to progress with just one regulator meeting outstanding. The aim here is to have a regulatory pathway for biopesticides mapped out that can be tested with candidates identified in MS5.1.
MS5.3 I am engaging with the participant sectors on their views as to how ALT can help increase biopesticide use within crop protection programmes – with the aim of establishing our programme and approach to how we do this over the life of the programme.

Project 6:  Upscaling biological control capability and adoption
MS6.1 overcoming the impediments to the commercialisation of BCA’s in NZ. I am engaging with specialists in this area to identify the obstacles that need to be overcome as well as identify any candidate BCA’s that could be upscaled in NZ.
MS6.2 as discussed in the first paragraph above, I am engaging with sectors to identify any potential projects that have arisen from the PFR report.
MS6.3 new organisms for biological control – building on the projects that arise from MS6.2 to find proposals and work towards importation and/or commercialisation of new BCA’s.

Project 7: New Technologies for Crop Protection
A contract will be let to identify, and help us to evaluate, novel or emerging pest control methods that will compliment agroecological crop protection. The request for proposals goes out at the end of November.

Project 8: Proof of concept through model systems
This is the design phase on which our model farms will be based. What needs to be included, excluded, how broad can we go with studying the areas of growing systems that feed into agroecological crop protection.

Project 9: Extension focus
MS9.1 Model farms and focus groups. The aim of the programme is to have 3 – 4 model farms demonstrating fruit, vegetable and arable growing systems that incorporate agroecological crop protection. So far we have one strong proposal that we are scoping and developing further with the hope we can get started in the current growing season. As discussed with sector leaders more ideas are welcome – we are happy to work with you in scoping these ideas into projects. We are also mapping out how ALT can tap into your existing extension programmes and focus groups.
MS9.2 Developing agroecological information tools – again I am engaging with the sectors on ideas for how ALT can provide improved tools for growers and crop protection users with the aim of being able to specify our needs and wants to an IT development provider.

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