Indigenous fungus may help to control wilding pines

Friday 11 Jun 2021

An indigenous New Zealand fungus may help to control wilding pines – one of the country’s most ecologically damaging weed species – a student’s research project shows.

Wilding pine control costs New Zealand millions of dollars a year, and involves the costly and time-consuming methods of cutting down the trees and spraying herbicide from the air. Control seldom totally eradicates the pines, which often reinvade sites some years later.

Armillaria novae-zealandiae, also known by Māori as harore, is a fungus that feeds on decaying wood. It is common in native forests, where it is a natural part of the ecosystem, helping to decay fallen trees. But if it gets into pine plantations it is seriously destructive, killing seedlings and reducing growth.

In a Bio-Protection Research Centre student research programme, biology student Genevieve Early, investigated how well A. novae-zealandiae and two closely related species established on wilding pine species.

Supervised by BPRC principal investigator and University of Canterbury Professor Ian Dickie and his colleague Dr John Pirker, she tested what age of wood it grew best on (ranging from live and freshly harvested wood to old and decayed wood). “The research aimed to address knowledge gaps in our understanding of Amillaria, and eventually investigate whether we could use it as a biological control of invasive pines,” says Genevieve.

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You can view a video of Genevieve Early presenting her research below.



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