Chocolatier brings BMSB intel to Momentum
What do bingo and chocolate have in common? You’d never have guessed it, but the answer is Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs (BMSB).
Experts on this unwanted pest shared their expertise during a workshop for delegates at the recent Zespri Momentum conference, aimed at raising awareness amongst growers about what we can do (as individuals and an industry) to be ready for BMSB, how a big international company and industry are managing this pest, and how we can be prepared to help the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) in a response.
Around 100 people over two workshops played a game of Bug Bingo to learn how to identify BMSB from other native/established bugs in New Zealand. Aleise Puketapu from Plant & Food Research and Zespri co-created and ran the games which although a bit of fun, unsurprisingly got very competitive and were taken even more seriously when players realised how difficult it can be to ID a BMSB – many said they learnt how important it is to make a report to the experts at the MPI hotline (0800 80 99 66) if you see anything unusual or new on your orchard, just in case.
Aleise then talked about the BMSB surveillance and trapping programme in the Bay of Plenty and had some traps and plants on-site for delegates to hunt through. This is the first year of the regional trapping programme (which is part of a larger national programme), co-funded by Zespri and KVH. Traps are monitored fortnightly by Aleise at 10 locations running from the Port of Tauranga in Mount Maunganui to Whakatane, concentrated around high-risk transitional facilities based on previous detections of BMSB and the volume of imports these facilities receive that potentially pose biosecurity concern. There have been no BMSB finds in the traps, and they will continue to be monitored until the end of the high-risk season on May.
International guest Tommaso De Gregorio from Ferrero then took the stage and spoke with delegates about how they are managing the impacts of BMSB to their Italian-based business Georgian growers, who supply most of the hazelnuts for their chocolate.
Within two to three years of arriving in Italy (around 2012/13) the pest became a huge problem and quickly spread. Tommaso set the scene with some grave numbers: In Italy in 2019 alone, BMSB caused almost 600M€ in damages to fruit and vegetables (with kiwifruit heavily affected) and almost 40,000 people days lost in work. He described the year as a tragedy.
When it comes to hazelnuts, an important part of the Ferrero Rocher chocolate business, BMSB is piercing the shell and giving them such a bad flavour that especially when roasted, makes chocolate unpalatable. Also, this piercing helps fungi go through the shell and rots the nuts, as well as sometimes causing early drop. Ferrero tries to manage the impact and raise awareness through different initiatives ranging from monitoring and trapping to seminars and regular communications with growers via visits and technical bulletins.
Tommaso particularly noted that monitoring is something Ferrero supports, especially with sticky traps, but they have found the most useful way to understand damage to orchards/crops and best times to spray is plant beating. As BMSB is too active during the day, they go into an orchard before sunrise to shake the trees on plastic sheets and count how many insects are found, providing the best picture of what is happening in orchards. This was a key learning for New Zealand and something that has been flagged for further research.
Summarising his talk, Tommaso reiterated the importance of awareness and monitoring, especially at a local level where every grower must monitor their own orchards. BMSB is a problem that is not going away and it is important to find an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach that brings all available tools together.
He also pointed out that he and his colleagues are very impressed with New Zealand growers and their proactive attitude to preparedness, which will put all the industry in a better position if BMSB were to arrive here.
Preparedness was also a key message from Charlotte Austin from MPI, who rounded-out the workshop with an overview of the biosecurity response system in New Zealand before having delegates break into teams and work through some short and longer term response management scenarios.
The groups worked through response decision making processes and learnt more about how different teams/workstreams need to gather and share information with each other, and what we as an industry and growers can do to help MPI in a response.
Key takeaways from this were that the more prepared we are on the orchard and as an industry, the better of we will be to limit the impacts of this unwanted pest and the more robust decisions will be. As an industry we also have a key role in social licence to help get messages out and ensure the New Zealand public are aware of how significant this threat is to the New Zealand way of life as well as our industry, and we get support for any response efforts should they occur in their backyard.
For those who missed the conference and want to hear from the speakers first-hand, the KVH Snapshot podcast is now online and features interviews from the workshop. The Snapshot podcasts are free and available now on SoundCloud or from Apple iTunes.