Plant Health & Environment Laboratory
MPI's Plant Health & Environment Laboratory (PHEL) provides diagnostic testing and technical expertise for new pests and diseases affecting plants and the environment.
The laboratory is based at two sites (Auckland and Christchurch) and employs more than thirty scientists and technical staff. We identify a broad range of pests and diseases including insects, mites, fungi, bacteria, phytoplasmas and viruses, and subcontract nematode identification. The laboratory is accredited to ISO 17025 (see the IANZ website for the scope of accreditation).
We have specialist facilities and equipment including:
- containment laboratories (physical containment 2 and 3);
- glasshouses (Level 3 transitional facility)
- transmission electron microscope;
- equipment for molecular and serological procedures; and
- reference collections for viruses and arthropods (fungal and bacterial collections are maintained as part of Landcare Research 's International Collection of Micro-organisms from Plants.
1. Diagnosis of pests & diseases in plant samples collected from:
- surveillance programmes, e.g. for fruit flies and pests of honey bees;
- submissions of suspected exotic pests and diseases from the general public, regional councils, crop consultants and the scientific community; and
- incursion responses, e.g. bacterial canker of kiwifruit, red imported fire ant, varroa bee mite and Phytophthora kernoviae.
These activities are all funded by the New Zealand government.
PHEL maintains a national database, the Plant Pest Information Network (PPIN) , which collects and manages plant pest surveillance information.
If you have found a pest or disease that you think is a biosecurity risk, call the Exotic Pest and Disease Hotline: 0800 809 966
Suspected new exotic pest and disease specimens can be submitted to the laboratory using this Suspected new pest or disease general surveillance specimen submission form (146 KB).
2. Testing imported and exported plants for freedom from regulated pests & diseases (see the High Value Crops website)
Some crop plants require specific pre-determined testing to ensure that they are free from damaging pests and diseases. For plants imported into New Zealand the tests are specified in MAF's import health standards. The tests are mandatory and must be done irrespective of whether the plants appear diseased.
PHEL provides a limited amount of Level 3 PEQ space for imported plants and seeds.
These services are provided on a cost-recovered basis and the price list for these services is available here: MPI Plant Health and Environment Laboratory costs (333 KB).
3. Diagnosis of pests & diseases on plants and plant products intercepted at the border (e.g. fresh fruit) or in quarantine (e.g. ornamental and crop plants).
PHEL is responsible for diagnosing the cause of pest and disease symptoms that are observed during MAF’s inspections of plants and plant products at the border or in quarantine (unlike pre-determined tests, diagnostic tests are only required if symptoms are observed). Diagnostic testing is generally more expensive because a broad range of tests is required to identify the cause of the symptoms and more than one pest may be identified. These services are provided on a cost-recovered basis and the price list for these services is available here: MPI Plant Health and Environment Laboratory costs (333 KB).
4. Research & development to underpin incursion response, surveillance and testing activities:
- test methods for serious pests and diseases not present in New Zealand, e.g. fruit flies, Plum pox virus and Pierce's diseases (Xylella fastidiosa); and
- PEQ testing manuals (describing the materials and methods used to test crops for pests and diseases in PEQ, e.g. kiwifruit, potatoes, etc.).
PHEL is a participant in a number of national and international programmes, e.g. the FRST-funded Better Border Biosecurity programme , the Subcommittee on Plant Health Diagnostic Standards and technical groups developing international standards for phytosanitary measures .
5. Technical advice on biosecurity issues, e.g. MPI standards, test procedures, pest management/eradication, presence of pests and diseases in New Zealand, risk analysis and pest epidemiology.
- Plant Health & Environment Laboratory Manager:
- Entomology Team Managers:
- Mycology & Bacteriology Team Manager:
- Virology & PEQ Team Manager:
- PEQ enquiries should be directed to:
Page last updated: 18 January 2013