International Year of Plant Health 2020
The International Year of Plant Health 2020 aims to raise awareness of the importance and impacts of plant health on global issues such as hunger, poverty, climate change, and economic development.
In December 2018, the United Nations declared 2020 as the International Year of Plant Health. The Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) and International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) are organising the International Year of Plant Health 2020.
Video – International Year of Plant Health (1.04)
I am life.
I am home to millions.
And I sustain millions more.
My abundance brings prosperity, while my scarcity can be deadly.
I cover much of the earth, and my influence extends far beyond.
I have been around for longer than you can imagine.
But my world is threatened.
People need to take notice.
And do more to secure my future.
Because I am worth protecting.
Your health relies on my health.
Your life relies on mine.
I am plants. I am life.
[End of transcript]
Video – Science at work: protecting plant health (6.15)
[The video begins with an image of the sun rising behind some trees. The Biosecurity New Zealand logo shows in the lower left corner of the screen. Words appear that say ‘Science at work. Protecting plant health’. An image of a brown marmorated stink bug appears next to the words. During the video, scenes are shown that relate to the words being spoken. This includes footage of kiwifruit and avocado orchards, forests, market gardens, and at outdoor locations like suburban homes where biosecurity staff are checking trees for insect pests. Other scenes during the video show staff at work in laboratories and scientists working at their computers. Also shown is the Post Entry Quarantine glasshouse facility and a detector dog at work. Some of the film shows close ups of the pests under a microscope, of staff doing diagnostic tests and staff being trained in the lab]
Ka tangi te tītī
Ka tangi te kākā
Ka tangi hoki ahau
He mihi ki te kaupapa o te tau, he mihi ki ngā tikanga – o kaitiakitanga.
Tihei mauri ora
[Dr Brett Alexander, Team manager, Plant Health and Environment Laboratory]: The plant kingdom is at the centre of life on earth.
And you don’t need to look very far to understand just how vital plant life is to our own existence and wellbeing. We know this …
But… It is easy to take it for granted that forests, ecosystems and farming practices that have existed through the ages, will continue as they always have. The reality is that exotic pests and diseases threaten these systems. Some could have destructive outcomes in very short order.
In a nutshell, biosecurity is simply this, to be aware of any potential threats and to guard against them.
Inside that nutshell, there is a world of complexity. A myriad of pests and diseases from around the world that can completely overwhelm host plants when they land in a new ecosystem that has had no opportunity to develop defences.
[The video shows Xyllela fastidiosa damage in olive trees, Italy]
Bacteria that can decimate industries, viruses that can make produce inedible, insects that can destroy harvests, and invasive plants that can smother ecosystems.
New Zealand has a strong biosecurity system. We consider ourselves a team of 5 million people watching out for these pests and diseases.
At its heart is our National Plant Protection Organisation - The Ministry for Primary Industries’ and its Plant Health and Environment Laboratory.
We’d like to invite you to come inside for a look at our laboratory. Responding to any biosecurity threat is based on knowing exactly what organism you are dealing with.
Our diagnostic work relies on expertise in all aspects of plant health. It requires tools and techniques from the straightforward to the highly advanced.
A lot of samples come through these doors. They come from a wide range of sources, -
from members of the public, growers, MPI’s border staff, investigators and surveillance programmes. These lead to the laboratory running 30 to 40 thousand tests every year
[Title: Post-entry quarantine]
Being able to import new high-value plant varieties is crucial for horticultural industries. The high-level quarantine facility we operate - is what allows that to happen.
As an example of how this works, this strawberry which was imported from the USA will be inspected twice a week for over 16 months.
It will undergo a series of diagnostic tests checking for a long list of regulated pathogens, often using the nucleic acid-based test, the PCR.
These PCR tests compare the genetic code of an organism against a known reference to see if there is a match.
Each test for each pathogen needs to be specifically developed, many of which have been developed and validated in our laboratories.
Let’s use an example to take a look at the strategies, tools and technologies we work with to protect New Zealand from biosecurity threats.
[Title: Brown marmorated stink bug]
One of the world’s most destructive pests – the brown marmorated stink bug, or BMSB for short.
Stink bugs are very effective at hiding themselves in small spaces in luggage or cargo. Detector dogs are equally effective at finding them.
But they need training using the actual bugs and these bugs need to be maintained with absolutely no risk of an escape. We maintain them in our high level quarantine facility.
Next in the link, the Ministry runs a surveillance programme where traps are set up at 50 high-risk sites around the country.
When a suspect is found it is sent into the lab for an urgent identification.
If it’s female it can be dissected to see if it has ever mated or laid eggs. If it had, that would indicate to the team that more intensive action needs to be taken.
Our scientists also apply cutting edge technology to help manage the risk. We are investigating using Genetic markers that will allow us to trace where in the world a stink bug may have come from. This would give valuable insight to the policymakers who manage our borders.
[Title: High throughput sequencing]
High-throughput sequencing is an advanced molecular diagnostic tool. Firstly, the genetic material is extracted from the bug, then it goes through a process that reveals it's genomic sequence.
This is what the scientists use to unravel the hidden genetic information from the BMSB. It takes all these tools to stop pests like the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug before they can take a hold in New Zealand.
High throughput sequencing opens the door for scientists to answer biological questions about fungi, bacteria, viruses and insects that previously could never be answered.
[Title: Working with innovative technology]
As the National Plant Protection Organisation, it is important to be at the forefront of biosecurity science.
That means always looking for opportunities to improve what we do and how we do it. And regularly evaluating new technology and tools and making sure we have the skill to get value from them.
We provide science advice to government, primary industries and the general public. We work together with our counterparts from other countries and research organisations
and regularly provide science training programmes nationally as well as around the Asia Pacific region.
Connecting with such a large community strengthens both our biosecurity capabilities as well as theirs.
Our aim is to understand pests and diseases and have systems in place before they arrive in New Zealand. With preparation, the pathogen, insect or plant can be accurately identified and the action plan to deal with it can be swung into place.
The complexity of this work, the technology, the systems and the expertise, all of this is focused on one simple objective – to protect plants and protect life.
[Produced by the team at the Plant Health and Environment Laboratory
With thanks to Sutherland Produce, Gonzalo Avila, Plant and Food Research, SPS biosecurity, individuals and teams across MPI]
[Ko Tātou this is us, Biosecurity 2025 logo appears, and its website address www.thisisus.nz]
[Biosecurity New Zealand logo appears.]
[End of transcript]
Why plant health?
The theme of the International Year of Plant Health 2020 is ‘Protecting Plants, Protecting Life’. Plants support life on Earth - they produce the air we breathe and the food we eat.
The FAO estimates that up to 40% of global food crops are lost to plant pests and diseases, resulting in more than US$220 billion of lost trade each year. Protecting plant health is crucial for eliminating hunger, reducing poverty, protecting our environment, and boosting social and economic development.
Importance of plant health in New Zealand
New Zealand's isolation means we are home to many unique families of plants, and biosecurity is hugely important to our nation’s wellbeing.
We also acknowledge and promote mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) of plant health. Indigenous insights are vital for guiding plant protection and conservation in New Zealand.
Goals for the International Year of Plant Health 2020
- Raising the awareness of plant health for public and political decision makers at the global, regional, and national levels.
- Promoting and strengthening of national, regional, and global plant health efforts with regards to increasing trade and new pest risks caused by climate change.
- Educating the public and increasing their knowledge about plant health.
- Enhancing dialogue and stakeholder involvement in plant health.
- Increasing the amount of information available about the state of plant protection in the world.
- Facilitating the establishment of national, regional, and global plant health partnerships.
Events are being coordinated by the New Zealand International Year of Plant Health 2020 steering committee led by the government, industry, NGOs, and iwi communities.