Growers and representatives from the Foundation for Arable Research, Federated Farmers, the Ministry for Primary Industries, the Cropping Strategy Group, and Assure Quality gathered to celebrate eradicating pea weevil on Wednesday. PHOTO/GIANINA SCHWANECKE

GIANINA SCHWANECKE
gianina.schwanecke@age.co.nz

Months on from pea weevil being eradicated and the Wairarapa pea growing ban lifted, growers are optimistic and excited about the sector’s future.

Pea growers and those involved in fighting the pea weevil incursion, which was first reported in the region in April 2016, gathered at Copthorne Solway Park for a celebratory morning tea and sector update on Wednesday morning.

The gathering had been delayed by covid-19 disruptions said Gladstone arable farmer Karen Williams [centre of photo], who was appointed to Biosecurity New Zealand’s governance group to help manage the incursion and who was recently elected vice-president of Federated Farmers.

“We never had an opportunity to recognise growers. It was really a team effort.”

She said the morning tea was a chance for the governance group to recognise the huge amount of effort and pain which went into eradication.

“There were some tough days and tough decisions.”

Williams thanked the growers for their efforts and sacrifices, not only the arable farmers but also keen gardeners who missed their Christmas peas.

She said alternative cropping strategies explored during the four years that peas were not able to be grown in the region made for a profitable and exciting future for Wairarapa’s arable growers.

Pea weevils were first found in the region in April 2016, prompting the Ministry of Primary Industries to put a ban in place on growing peas with small areas planted as trap crops to attract the remaining weevils.

In February, the Wairarapa Controlled Area Notice was lifted after successful trapping seasons without any new weevils being found.

Eradication of biosecurity threats in New Zealand, had only been accomplished a handful of times before and eliminating pea weevil was credited as a world first, she said.

Williams also pointed to positive news on the Mycoplasma bovis eradication front which has been under way for three years.

Biosecurity and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said New Zealand had made significant progress with the number of infected properties dropping to new lows.

“To date, 250 properties have been infected by the disease – with all but four now clear of it.”

He said the key to the programme’s success had been collaboration from industry partners.

“They were part of the bold decision to attempt to eradicate this disease and have been part of our efforts since the very beginning.”