Children study plant pests

SHARE

Codling moths and leafrollers are under the microscope of some of Central Otago’s youngest scientists, thanks to a project being led by a Wanaka Primary School teacher.
Sharon Pendlebury has received funding from the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) for year 5 and 6 pupils to study codling moth and leafroller infestations in the district’s fruit trees.
‘‘Monitoring and Control of Codling Moth and Leafrollers in Central Otago’’ is funded by the Participatory Science Platform, part of the ministry’s Curious Minds initiative.
It is being carried out in partnership with research scientists from Plant and Food Research in Clyde and local Royal Society of New Zealand scientists.
Mrs Pendlebury spent the first two terms of this year on placement at the Clyde research facility as part of her participation in the Science Teaching Leadership Programme, also funded by the MBIE. She worked alongside Arlene Nixon on an apricot breeding programme that uses genetics to develop cultivars for the fruit industry and export markets.
The placement meant she had gained a ‘‘valuable partner’’ to help connect learning at her school with the work of ‘‘real scientists’’ in the community.
‘‘Plans to establish an orchard at the school are now under way that will give pupils the opportunity to study horticulture in a relevant context,’’ she said.
‘‘The idea of studying the problem of codling moth and leafrollers stemmed from a visit by our year 5 and 6 science leaders to Plant and Food Research.
‘‘Most of the children in the group had observed the effects of codling moth infestation in apple or pear trees in their own or neighbours’ gardens and were fascinated to learn about methods of control being researched at Clyde.’’
Leafroller moths were another significant pip and stone-fruit pest and a well-organised approach to controlling the insects was essential.
Development of control methods for codling moth will benefit the local community as well as schools and preschools that are establishing orchards as part of their Enviroschools programme.
The first step of the project was to establish sites the pupils and scientists could use for monitoring the extent of the problem and she asked people with an orchard or fruit trees in their gardens to contact her at sharonp@wanaka.school.nz so a questionnaire could be sent. – Jennie Lyall, of Wanaka Primary School, and Hawea Flat schoolteacher Heather Maxwell have also begun the first phase of the leadership programme.