Ever wondered what that suspicious bug is, scuttling around your pasture? Or just what that carnivorous and highly venomous plant could be?
Identification of pasture pests and weeds has just got a lot easier with PestWebNZ, an online database launched at the recent New Zealand Agricultural Fieldays.
AgResearch plant scientist Katherine Tozer says the new website provides information on the biology, control and impact of the country’s key weeds and pests, and anyone can use it.
“You don’t need in-depth biological knowledge; you can actually go to the site with the pasture pest in your hand and identify what it is, according to key characteristics.”
But the background information it is based on had to be current and accurate.
“The aim is to get more rapid and effective control, and to minimise production losses. It’s about arming farmers and lifestylers with information.”
The site can be used in a number of ways. “People can go directly to the list of weeds and pests and look up whatever they’re interested in, they can use simple keys to identify weeds and pests, and they can sign up to receive emailed alerts to stay aware of potential pest outbreaks and how to manage them.”
The site has just over 30 pest species listed, including clover root weevil, black beetle, and Chilean needle grass. More will be added to over time.
“Pests vary from region to region, but the worst one for the Waikato at the moment is black beetle, and for weeds, yellow bristle grass. Of course, new ones keep turning up, such as velvet leaf, which we’re just now adding to PestWebNZ.”
The information flow goes both ways. “People can record observations on the site, they can add to the knowledge and we really want them to.”
By the way, the wee fellow in the photo, the brassica springtail, otherwise known as Bourietiella hortensis, occurs throughout New Zealand and likes to eat newly emerged seedlings.
It’s a very small insect, about the size of a pin head, and jumps when disturbed. In fact, it is most easily detected by placing a white card or cloth on the ground, and gently disturbing the soil.
Who said science wasn’t wonderful?