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Eco-Friendly Solution For Costly Wood Infection

Eco-Friendly Solution For Costly Wood Infection

A Rotorua scientist has developed an environmentally friendly treatment for an infection that causes significant revenue losses for the forestry industry, winning recognition in the MacDiarmid Young Scientists of the Year Awards.

Dr Tripti Singh’s research targets blue stain fungi, an infection that discolours radiata pine logs soon after harvest and is estimated to cost forestry exporters up to NZ$100 million a year. Tripiti, who is a Bioactive Research Team Leader for crown research institute Scion, is runner-up in the Adding Value to Nature category, which is sponsored by the University of Waikato.

The awards are presented by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology in association with principal sponsor Fisher & Paykel Appliances.

Damage to logs during harvesting provides a perfect entry point for the blue stain fungi. The infection gets established in the weeks logs lie on ships travelling to overseas ports, resulting in the wood turning blue or black on arrival.

Traditional protection methods use toxic, synthetic chemicals which have implications for both the environment and human health. Tripti’s solution combines a natural compound called chitosan, which is abundantly found in the exoskeleton of sea creatures and is a waste product from fish processing, with a common mould fungus, to create an eco-friendly treatment option.

The chitosan delays the growth of blue stain fungi long enough for the mould fungus Trichoderma to get established on the wood where it takes all the available nutrients and starves the blue stain fungi to death.

Tripti says the treatment can be sprayed on logs in the forest straight after harvest and presents an eagerly awaited wood protection solution to the forestry industry.

Field trials of the technology are continuing and Scion is talking to potential partners about commercialising the treatment.

Originally from India, Tripti came to New Zealand 13 years ago, completing her Masters degree at the University of Waikato and her PhD at Lincoln University before joining Scion.


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