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Insects Approved For Control Of Hieracium

The Hieracium Control Trust (HCT) is delighted that the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) has approved the release into the field of three more insect species for biological control of hieracium. Hieracium is an invasive weed occupying large areas of pastoral and conservation lands throughout the South Island and Central North Island, and has continued to increase both its range and intensity in recent years.

"The HCT and those who have funded the programme are delighted that ERMA has given approval to release these insects" said Chairman of the HCT, Mr John Aspinall. "The three insects have undergone extensive screening to ensure that they only attack hieracium. Following extensive consultation with iwi and Department of Conservation (DoC), an application was made to the ERMA for approval to release them into the field. The granting of approval without conditions fulfils a major objective of the HCT programme."

The insects include a root feeding hoverfly and a foliage feeding hoverfly which will not be imported until May next year, and a gall midge, which it is hoped to be imported in July and to release next summer.

The HCT was formed in 1993 by South Island High Country Farmers to implement a biological control programme for hieracium and enhance restoration of affected lands. Following an extensive survey of agents available in Europe, five insects and a rust were chosen, these underwent intensive study and host testing to ensure they do not colonise desirable plant species. Two insect species and three strains of the rust have previously been released in New Zealand. A powdery mildew has also dispersed itself. To date the Trust has committed $1.3m. This has been provided by a range of funders including farmers, Woolpro, Meat N Z, MAF, Agmardt, agribusiness, DoC, Community Trusts, Research Trusts, Regional and District Councils and commercial businesses as well as some concerned individuals. The ERMA approved decision vindicates their continued faith in the programme.

The main objective of the Trust will now be to rear and release as many insects as possible and monitor their effectiveness. To achieve this we will need continued funding from our valued supporters.

"Farmers can be proud to have taken the initiative to address this environmental problem", Mr Aspinall concluded. "This is a clear example of farmers stewardship in the wider public interest."


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