Hopes beneficial insects could boost farm yields

Pollinators like bees are one of the beneficial insects that support farming in Aotearoa. Photo:...
Pollinators like bees are one of the beneficial insects that support farming in Aotearoa. Photo: Getty Images
A new research project involving 45 Canterbury farms will look at how specifically-designed native plantings could be used to attract beneficial insects and boost farm yields.

The project is being led by Plant and Food Research, with $2.2 million of funding coming from the Ministry for Primary Industries Plant Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund and a range of industry partners investing just over $1m.

The project will plant land that is currently under-utilised - such as fence lines, road verges and watercourses - with local native plants that have been proven to support and maintain beneficial insect life.

Plant & Food Research lead researcher Dr Melanie Davidson said native plantings could host many beneficial insects that support farming in Aotearoa. These insects included pollinators and natural enemies of insect pests.

"We know from our previous research on arable and vegetable farms in Canterbury that native plantings support a complex network of insects that benefit crops,

"This new research programme will help us measure the services provided by these insects and understand how to optimise the benefits from native plantings across different types of farming."

Davidson said a key outcome of the programme would be the development of plant species composition guidelines to help farmers choose the best configurations of native plants to support their specific farming goals.

Knowledge sharing was an important component of the programme, she said.

"We hope that by demonstrating the tangible economic benefits, including improved profitability from reduced pesticide use and increased pollination, we will encourage people to establish native plantings on their land."

Researchers would assess the plantings over the next five years to identify how they benefit the surrounding landscape. iwi will contribute to the research through identifying the mauri (life force) elements related to these native plantings.



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