Biosecurity Minister announces world- first eradication of pea weevil

A Government programme to wipe out pea weevil has achieved a world first, with Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor today announcing the successful eradication of the noxious pest from Wairarapa.

This has resulted in the nearly-four-year ban on pea plants and pea straw being lifted today.  Commercial and home gardeners can again grow pea plants and use pea straw as garden bedding material.

Mr O’Connor said there have been no new finds of pea weeviles for two seasons.  Biosecurity New Zealand therefore is confident no pea weevils remain in Wairarapa or New Zealand.

“To our knowledge, this is the first time a pea weevil population has been successfully eradicated anywhere in the world,” he said.

“This just goes to show what can be achieved when government, industry and communities work together.

“It also shows that eradications can be achieved. This government is committed to attempting eradications wherever possible. In this situation we had a good shot at it because the destructive little insect was detected early and in a region with mountain ranges providing some natural borders.

“But more importantly – we had an outstanding level of awareness and support within the community for our approach to ban the growing of pea plants and pea straw. In doing this we removed the pea weevil’s only food source, which caused the population to die out. It was straightforward and effective.”  

Biosecurity New Zealand has been working with Wairarapa farmers since March 2016 to contain pea weevil, which threatened to put a major dent in the country’s $130 million pea industry. A network of trap crops was set up to flush out the pest so it could be destroyed before it completed its life cycle.

Its last detection was in late 2017.

Karen Williams, a Carterton pea grower appointed to the Pea Weevil Governance Group advising on the issue, said “it’s been a long four years, with ups and downs, but we have achieved the ultimate result”.

“The decision to eradicate was hard on local pea growers so it is extremely pleasing to see their efforts rewarded.”

Ms Williams said the next step for industry is to work with seed companies to bring back pea growing contracts.

Today’s announcement comes just two weeks after Biosecurity New Zealand ended its fruit fly operations on Auckland’s North Shore and lifted restrictions on the movement of fruit and vegetables in the Northcote area.

Source:  Minister of Biosecurity

Author: Bob Edlin

Editor of AgScience Magazine and Editor of the AgScience Blog

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