Sign up to receive B3 news alerts Sign up now

Rapid screening model for optimising commodity treatments

Plans to phase out methyl bromide fumigation necessitate faster screening methods for developing alternative biosecurity treatments.


Through systematic bioassays of pest physiological responses to chemical and abiotic stressors, this project will develop a novel methodology to rapidly evaluate and optimise disinfestation treatments to control biosecurity pests on import pathways and protect New Zealand’s primary production and native estates from the invasions of unwanted pest organisms.


Researchers will develop a physiologically-based treatment template, the Physiological Response Matrix (PRM), that will pre-emptively determine targeted ranges and options based on pest and pathway-specific constraints. This will permit rapid evaluation of potential phytosanitary treatments and accelerate research by reducing the initial time required to prioritise the possible range of treatments. Minimising time will reduce overall research costs and provide for rapid screening for commodity treatments.


The research team will use pests’ physiological responses to environmental stressors (e.g., controlled atmosphere, temperature) to create targeted, optimised phytosanitary treatments. The PRM will allow rapid identification of physiologically-optimised single or combination treatments facilitating application development and confirmatory research for new disinfestation schedules. The parameters and methods developed in this study will focus on domestic insects. These model species will be selected because of their similar taxonomy, physiology, and behaviour to key pest species of biosecurity concern. International collaborators will then validate the PRM against strategic pest species analogues not currently in New Zealand.


Basing the PRM on pest physiology is an innovative approach that should accelerate the development of phytosanitary treatment schedules, increase treatment efficacy, and ultimately reduce environmental impacts, worker safety concerns, and treatment costs.


Initial research using temperature as a stressor on a range of New Zealand insects and their life stages was conducted in 2022-2023. Building of equipment and software to test temperature in combination with controlled atmosphere treatments was started and will be used in the next steps.


Contact Project Leader Jessica Vereijssen: [email protected]