The tomato industry is hoping to introduce a new insect to help control one of its worst greenhouse pests - whitefly.
Industry body Tomatoes New Zealand has applied to the Environmental Protection Authority to bring in and release the predatory mirid, macrolophus pygmaeus.
Tomatoes New Zealand chairman Alasdair MacLeod says the pest, which feeds on tomato plants, is causing huge losses and costs for greenhouse growers - on average $95,000 per hectare per year.
Mr MacLeod says the predatory mirid is widely used for whitefly control overseas, but it has to be carefully managed because it can also attack the crops it's being used to protect.
Mr MacLeod says if Tomatoes New Zealand gets clearance from the EPA to introduce the insect, it would arrange for commercial operators to rear colonies of macrolophus pygmaeus to be released into greenhouses.
EPA is seeking public submissions on the application. The deadline is the 7 February.