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Published: 2005-02-11 00:00:00

Funding failure for biological control initiatives could compromise work to combat a variety of plant pests, this week’s Environment Waikato Biosecurity Committee heard.

Biosecurity Technical Liaison officer David Stephens said investment in appropriate biological control measures was a priority because, once established, it could be integrated with other control methods which would otherwise not be cost effective. Biological control uses naturally occurring insects, fungi and organisms to control pests.

There was concern that Landcare Research had failed to obtain funding for biocontrol from the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology under a recently introduced outcome based initiatives scheme which absorbed 80 percent of total funding. Instead a Crop and Food-led proposal had obtained $6.5 million a year to focus on improved border control initiatives.

Landcare Research was now dependent on gaining funding from the FRST project funding scheme for its weed biocontrol initiatives. If it was unsuccessful it would severely slow down progress and the team could lose capacity to fulfil biocontrol expectations. He said priority was being given to the first line of defence at the border.

Environment Waikato was committed to programmes using broom seed beetle, broom psyllid, gorse thrips and pod moth, mistflower fungus and gall fly. It also released hieracium gall wasp and gall midge and was awaiting ERMA approval to release boneseed leaf roller. This year’s releases include colonial hard shoot moth, gorse thrips and hieracium gall midge.

Other work is being done on biological control for tradescantia, woolly nightshade, mothplant and Darwin’s barberry.

Biological control was playing a growing role in pest control in the Waikato and throughout the country, and other agents were purchased as they became available. However the agents available were nowhere near enough, he said.