In June 2013, Landcare Research joined the Better Border Biosecurity (B3) collaboration, enabling B3 to provide an even more coordinated and integrated approach to terrestrial plant border biosecurity. The inclusion of Landcare Research in B3 means that all of the land-focused Crown Research Institutes (CRIs) are now represented within the research collaboration. Landcare Research’s strengths in non-target risk assessment, molecular diagnosis of plant pathogens and applied mathematical modelling in particular will strengthen B3’s capacity, capability and expertise.
B3 Chair Dr James Buwalda said, “With the inclusion of Landcare Research’s skills and expertise, the B3 collaboration is now able to provide a more integrated and comprehensive approach to managing the risks of pest incursions to New Zealand’s productive and indigenous ecosystems. Their commitment to the B3 collaboration also reinforces the value of organisations working together to create better science-based outcomes for New Zealand.”
B3 Director David Teulon agreed. “All of us at B3 are extremely excited about the contributions that Landcare Research will make to the organisation. In particular, they will strengthen B3’s interface between the productive sectors and natural systems.”
Teulon said the emergence of new National Science Challenges will also provide a stimulus for further collaboration. He said, “The Challenges offer the potential for seamless pre-, at-, and post-border biosecurity research which will be of great benefit to New Zealand.”
Gary Houliston, Plant Geneticist and Research Leader at Landcare Research, is the CRI’s new representative on B3’s science operational leadership team. He said that the collaboration is expected to grow through time by exploring new opportunities, including developing collaborative projects that could be considered for support from Landcare Research core funding and through joint applications with other B3 partner organisations for external funding.
Landcare Research is currently planning to contribute to three key B3 projects. The first project focuses on population modelling. John Kean, B3’s Theme Leader for Surveillance, said, “Landcare Research has a history of innovative population modelling to guide and support their work on managing vertebrate pests and wildlife diseases. I am excited to have some of this expertise becoming available to B3’s scope of invertebrate pests and plant diseases. Often the importation of tools and techniques into slightly different contexts leads to a flush of insights and research productivity, and I’m confident that this will be the case here.”
Second, Landcare Research will contribute to a project that focuses on the risks to non-target species from intentional introductions. Risk Assessment Theme leader Barbara Barrett said, “They have a strong history of research in the area of biosafety of biological control which will complement B3 research in the Risk Assessment theme, with their focus on weed biological control.”
Landcare Research has also carried out research that compliments B3 work on sentinel plants. Ronny Groenteman, Researcher for the organisation’s Biodiversity and Conservation team, presented a paper in the B3 Symposium ‘Sentinel Plants for Biosecurity Risk Assessment’ at the recent Botanic Gardens Congress (see previous highlights for more details) on ‘Pre-emptive Biocontrol and Plant Sentinels’.
Finally, diagnostics research on Pseudomonas is the third area which will draw on Landcare Research expertise. Karen Armstrong, who leads the Diagnostics Theme, said, “We’re really enthusiastic about the contribution that Landcare’s taxonomic research on this group can provide. Understanding the systematic relationships between species and strains is essential as a scaffold to better understand differences in pathogenicity or host range. Diagnostics that can define such traits are essential in better defining risk associated with exotic microbes at the border.”
Landcare Research CEO, Richard Gordon, remarked that “Landcare Research is delighted to be a member of B3 and will bring complementary research and strong collaboration to its membership. Collaboration between science providers and the users of science is so important to the design, timeliness and uptake of science. This is what B3 delivers.”