Keeping up with sleeper pests

04 March 2021

Last week KVH attended a great workshop hosted by Manaaki Whenua on ‘sleeper pests’ – pest plants, animals and pathogens which are already in New Zealand but are kept in check by factors such as host unavailability and cold; their distribution and impacts could be much larger in time, especially due to climate change.

These species also pose very different modelling challenges compared with new invaders. Modelling the impacts of new invaders is often easier as we can use data and insights from offshore to predict what their impacts might be in our current, and future environments.

The workshop (which also included representatives from the potatoes and forestry industries, regional councils, the Department of Conservation and Biosecurity New Zealand) is part of a project to develop climate modelling techniques which will enable growers and industry groups to better understand and mitigate the effects of sleeper pests.

It is important to be involved in such projects because we know that threats to our industry aren't only those found offshore - they could already be here, and either not exposed to kiwifruit yet, or the conditions aren’t right for impacts to occur. A great example of this is Ceratocystis fimbriata, one of our most unwanted. We know this was a native pathogen to Brazil, that when exposed to kiwifruit caused devastation to the industry, with up to 50% loss on impacted orchards.

KVH will continue to be involved in the sleeper pest project and we look forward to seeing the outputs from this work, which will add to our important preparedness efforts.