Minister sees whitefly devastation in Tuakau

National Tech Manager for Covered Crops, Ben Smith, Primary Industries Minister, Nathan Guy,Commercial Manager for covered crops at Turners and Growers, Anthony Stone, MP for Hunua, AndrewBayly, and Head Grower Manager, Greg Prendergast, at the greenhouse located in Harrisville, Tuakau.

National Tech Manager for Covered Crops, Ben Smith, Primary Industries Minister, Nathan Guy,Commercial Manager for covered crops at Turners and Growers, Anthony Stone, MP for Hunua, AndrewBayly, and Head Grower Manager, Greg Prendergast, at the greenhouse located in Harrisville, Tuakau.

Turners and Growers were treated to a visit by Primary Industries Minister, Nathan Guy, at one of their greenhouses in Tuakau to discuss the issues they are currently having from the effects of a key pest, whitefly.

“I was able to bring Hon Nathan Guy to Turners and Growers so that he could see first hand the effects of whitefly on tomato crops. He had previously had a briefing on the issue but is keen for MPI to work on a plan to deal with this issue. Not only does it require a multi-treatment approach, which is not available at present, but will also involve the potato growing industry. Both these industries are very important to the Franklin area,” explains MP for Hunua, Andrew Bayly.
Representatives from the group were able to explain and show Rt Hon. Guy, and MP Andrew Bayly, the devastation it has on their tomato crops. The infestation is costing the industry inbetween $10-$20 million per year in lost profits, a number which the team say will increase as the whitefly issue worsens.
Whitefly sucks the sap from the plants, which damages productivity and quality. It was explained that nearly all methods of whitefly control failed in some parts of the country, which has lead to substantial crop losses – something that Turners and Growers and NZ Hot House both agree that they never want to experience.
“We are now using alternative methods, including spraying with soaps and oils, as well as the biological control with a parasitic wasp. These alone just aren’t effective enough to deal with the incredible high numbers of whitefly.”
There are both insecticide and biological agent options available internationally, but the pathways to introduce these into New Zealand are nigh on impossible. “Economic sustainability is a genuine concern for growers, as is our ability to produce safe and compliant food. We are clean and green, and we would like to keep it that way.”
The team are now investigating sustainable ways of control rather than looking into the use of chemicals, they have requested that Primary Industries conducts a review of potential solutions for whitefly control, including consideration of an application for additional biological control agents.

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