• Update from CABI and MWLR

    September 2019

    The Centre for Bioscience and Agriculture International (CABI) undertook the July 2019 survey and collection in Sikkim, India as agreed, and managed to collect a good number of stem-mining flies, some weevils and the leaf-feeding moth. These were taken back to the UK for rearing and host testing in their quarantine facility.

    Following on from the taxonomic inspection of the Merochlorops dimorphus stem-mining by a Dipteran expert in the UK, Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research (MWLR) have conducted DNA molecular analyses and confirmed that there are two different species of Merochlorops dimorphus stem-mining flies, a three spot and a four spot. CABI staff managed to split these two types of flies apart from their collections in July and set up new host-testing experiments for each species to ascertain their host range and biocontrol potential.  It is too early for the results yet, as CABI are waiting for the new generation of flies to emerge from the plants. However, as reported from the earlier host testing, the expectation is that only one of the species, the three spot, is host specific, but there is still a question as to whether it will feed on the New Zealand ginger.  CABI are planning another collection in October so they will have enough flies for the host testing to be completed by the end of this calendar year. A decision will then be made, based on the outcome whether to continue with them or discard them.

    The Metaprodioctes trilineata weevils that feed on all parts of the ginger plants as adults and whose larvae feed in the rhizomes, are showing a broad feeding range as adults. MWLR still need to assess whether the adults discriminate between plant species when laying eggs and whether the larvae are capable of feeding on other plant species. This is proving to be a difficult process in quarantine with restricted plant material and space at CABI in the UK.  To address this MWLR will be sending more NZ ginger rhizomes to CABI to boost their plant numbers for rearing and host-testing experiments. If this species is host specific, MWLR are expecting to apply for a 3rd party export to NZ, to the Indian National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) and to import the weevils into NZ for further work. CABI hope to complete the host testing of the weevil this year and a final decision about whether to continue with this species will then be made. 

    As for the leaf-feeding moth, Artona flavipuncta, it appears that the larvae feed and can be reared on many non-target plants. Although there is still a question as to whether the adult moths would oviposit on ginger only, the expectation is that they won’t, so we have discarded this species for further work at this time.

    For the next survey and collection trip in Sikkim in October, CABI have been asked to look for and collect the Hispine beetles, and begin host testing them, to enable them to switch focus to these species if the other insects prove to be non-host specific or are unable to be reared for field release at this time.

    The Stop Wild Ginger Stakeholder Group

  • News from the UK...

    Results have just returned from the Centre for Bioscience and Agriculture International (CABI), our agent in London who are conducting the initial host testing on our stem-mining fly. A number of flies did hatch from the ginger stems collected in India and exported to the UK, however, closer taxonomic inspection by a Dipteran expert suggests that there are in fact two, separate species of flies that emerge from identical pupae in the ginger stems. These probable two species are only distinguished as adults by a frontal protuberance and a difference in genitalia, both only observable under a microscope. The initial findings from this round of testing also indicate that one of the species is host-specific but will not feed well on the hybrid of ginger we have here in New Zealand and the other species will feed on our ginger but is non-host specific, meaning it could feed on other, desirable species we have here.

    CABI and Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research (MWLR) have agreed to one more collection of the fly in July from the Sikkim region of India in order to categorically rule out the use of the fly as a biocontrol agent and to definitively establish that there are indeed two species (through molecular analysis) and to test pure cultures of the flies with good sex ratio’s and population numbers in order to be sure that the lack of positive controls on our hybrid species were not due to other variables. If the results from that collection are similar or inconclusive, then the focus will shift to the weevil and hispine beetles.

    Previous research has shown that the weevil can be difficult to raise in containment but this insect is known to be restricted to ginger species as hosts for larval development. The risk to non-target plants is yet to be completely determined. The current plan is for CABI to survey the Sikkim region in July and collect as many of the adult male and female weevils as possible before the monsoon season. A second survey will be conducted in October. A student from the local university will conduct pre-surveys to identify sites with high numbers of weevils.

    The two hispine beetles are approved for export but are relatively under-researched still and will be collected along with the weevil so that host testing can begin on them this northern summer.  While the results for the stem-mining fly are disappointing, the weevil is still significantly promising and the fly may still have potential after the results of the July collection. An update will be provided after the bi-annual stakeholder meeting in June. For further information, please contact our Financial Manager, Ashlee Lawrence at ashleel@nrc.govt.nz 

    The Stop Wild Ginger Stakeholder Group

  • Holiday News

    Meri Kirihimete to all our supporters!

    We have recently had some excellent news from our Landcare Research partners, that CABI UK have successfully negotiated with the Indian authorities and exported specimens of the stem-mining fly to their facilities in the UK. They are now waiting on the larvae to emerge from stems of wild ginger that they collected to then proceed with breeding and host-testing trials. 

    We expect further updates in the New Year, keep an eye out for our newsletter with further information!


    -The Stop Wild Ginger Stakeholder Group

  • Our Plan For The Next Three Years....

    Thanks to Ministry of Primary Industries and our stakeholder partners, we now have the funds to finish our research in Northern India over the next three years and hope to have at least two successful introductions of a biocontrol agent by 2021. We are currently subcontracting Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research to oversee the research and quarantine testing.

    We will be holding bi-annual stakeholder meetings every six months (dates and locations TBC), which any member of the public is more than welcome to attend. These meetings will be attended by senior scientists from MWLR who will present on the latest findings and project progress to all of our stakeholders. Meeting times and dates will be posted to this website and if you would like to attend please email our Finance Manager, Ashlee Lawrence at ashleel@nrc.govt.nz to confirm numbers.  Newsletters such as this one will also be posted to the website every three months, and updates as required.

    The first updates from MWLR were received this week - they have signed off a contract with CABI UK to source, collect, host test, rear and ship potential biocontrol agents for wild ginger. CABI have been negotiating with Indian authorities for permission to collect and ship the potential biocontrol insects out of India and to the UK for quarantine. These negotiations have been successful and the three-year programme for exploration and surveys can begin mid-October, 2018. This is great news for the project as these negotiations have taken a number of years with many setbacks.

    As the project moves forward and biocontrols are imported, we will be attending a number of Field Days and agricultural shows to raise awareness of wild ginger and our research. We will be using these opportunities to discuss potential release sites with the public and to identify any areas besides Russel State and Waipoua Forests that urgently need assistance. These sites will have to meet a number of criteria as ‘nursery sites’ to foster growing populations of insects that will then be able to move to other infested areas.

    The next few years look to be very positive for the project, if you would like any further information or details, please email our Finance Manager on the above email and don’t forget to keep an eye on this page for updates!

     With Thanks,

     The Stop Wild Ginger Stakeholder Group


  • Fantastic News!

    Thanks to all your hard work dropping pins, we now have almost $900,000 to continue our biocontrol research.

    Thanks for  your support.

    The Stop Wild Ginger Stakeholder Group

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