Scientists have released a ladybird in a field trial in Canterbury in the hope it will prove an effective predator of the crop-destroying insect tomato-potato psyllid.
Lincoln University professor of ecology Steve Wratten says the southern ladybird was released on Wednesday by the university's Bio-Protection Research Centre, together with Plant and Food Research, in an organic potato crop in Canterbury.
Professor Wratten says they're hoping the ladybird will prove as effective at killing the psyllid in the field as it did in the lab.
He hopes the southern ladybirds will lay eggs, survive and spread in the potato crop for the next few weeks, which would pave the way for further trials early next year.
If the tests are successful, farmers of crops badly affected by the tomato-potato psyllid may in the future be able to purchase southern ladybirds and release them on their crops themselves.
Professor Wratten says this will be a much cheaper option for farmers than using insecticides.