Investing in the future of endophyte technology

A brand new 2000 square metre cool store capable of keeping over 1500 tonnes of ryegrass seed in perfect condition is the latest investment in endophyte technology by one of New Zealand’s biggest pasture companies.

But it won’t be the last.

 

Agriseeds was the first company in the Southern Hemisphere to begin researching and developing ryegrass endophytes 30 years ago.

Today it markets the widest range of endophytes available in NZ, including its own NEA family of endophytes.

 

It also continues to invest heavily in endophyte discovery and research both here and offshore.

The newly completed cool store at the company’s Canterbury seed distribution centre is a critical part of the infrastructure required to get endophyte on farm at the right time, in the right condition.

It’s the third and largest cool store at the Rolleston site, and features the latest earthquake-resistant building techniques, including a floating floor.

It is also fitted with a computerised climate control system which keeps its contents at no more than 8 deg C, with relative humidity of below 50 per cent.

Agriseeds marketing manager Graham Kerr says these are the optimum conditions for keeping endophyte alive and healthy inside ryegrass seed.

 

“This is a perishable fungus - it needs to be stored in the right environment so the seed arrives at local stores and then onto farms with high levels of live endophyte present.”

Kerr says the new store is already holding its first pallets of ryegrass seed, most of which contain Agriseeds’ own endophytes in market leading varieties such as Trojan, Shogun, Viscount and Rohan.

The company first released its NEA family of endophytes in 2001, with NEA2 in Tolosa perennial ryegrass. The research and testing behind NEA began in 1987, however, and continues today.

Collectively, NEA endophytes now account for much of the total NZ endophyte market and provide the best combination of animal health and insect control, Kerr says.

“Part of the reason for this is they are naturally occurring; they have evolved in partnership with their ryegrass hosts.”

 

With good control of key pests like Argentine stem weevil and black beetle to support pasture persistence, NEA endophytes also have an excellent animal safety record, and are among the most thoroughly tested available.

 

Proper infrastructure like the new cool store at Rolleston is only part of the investment necessary to stay at the leading edge of endophyte technology, Kerr says.

Since 2006, Agriseeds has invested in endophyte research and discovery at the Molecular Plant Breeding Cooperative Research Centre in Victoria.

 

“We built the new cool store in the first instance to ensure we continue to provide the best quality seed to the NZ pastoral industry. But we also built it for the future – our endophyte business is still growing, and we’re going to need that space in the years to come.”