Our achievements

The Plant Health and Environment Laboratory has a history of scientific achievement and international collaboration. Find out about some of our recent success stories.


Preparing for myrtle rust

Myrtle rust is a fungal disease that is widespread on the east coast of Australia. If it reached New Zealand it would have a serious effect on plants in the myrtle family — such as pōhutukawa, mānuka, kānuka, rātā, eucalyptus, and feijoa. The Plant Health and Environment Laboratory (PHEL) has developed a faster, more sensitive test for myrtle rust that will be included in international protocols. We are also working with the Food and Environment Research Agency in the UK to develop a field test for myrtle rust that uses similar technology to home pregnancy tests.

Eradicating Queensland fruit fly

In February 2015 a small population of Queensland fruit fly was found in the Auckland suburb of Grey Lynn. The population was declared eradicated on 4 December 2015. PHEL staff played a key role in MPI's successful response to the pest, from the identification of the first fly found in a surveillance trap through to broader response operations. We provided scientific and technical input on host ranges, controlled area restrictions, fruit monitoring, surveillance and control measures, and public enquiries.

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Helping diagnose pests overseas

The International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) is responsible for improving plant health worldwide. Our scientists are recognised internationally and are on the IPPC panel that develops diagnostic methods for pests that affect international trade. Many of the tests developed at PHEL have been included in the IPPC standards — including tests for fire blight and Pierce’s disease in grapes.

International diagnostics training

The Plant Health and Environment Laboratory has helped run a number of diagnostic training workshops with the Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources. These were part of a project to build specialist diagnostic skills and resources in the Asian region (under the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement).

The PHEL workshops focused on:

  • diagnosis of pest insects and mites of agricultural importance
  • DNA extraction and barcoding for plant pests and pathogens.
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