Biocontrol offers a cost-effective, environmentally low-risk and sustainable solution to weed control. Carefully selected biocontrol agents only target their host weed species. They don’t harm desirable plants, and don’t pollute the environment.
Once established, these natural enemies can spread wherever the weed occurs and can maintain weed populations at a level where they do not cause significant economic and environmental damage—all without human input. When possible, biocontrol is an ideal solution.
The weed biocontrol group runs projects and programmes of work at home in New Zealand and with communities in the Pacific with the goal of finding host-specific biocontrol agents for selected target weeds. Key funders and stakeholders in our research include the National Biocontrol Collective; the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI)’s Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures; New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).
About weed biocontrol
Biological control is the use of one living organism to control another. In our case, this involves the introduction of a natural enemy (usually an insect or a fungus) of a target weed from the country of origin of the weed.
Our research team works to reduce the environmental, economic and social impacts of invasive plants by researching how best to manage them. We have a strong focus on developing biocontrol programmes for New Zealand weeds.
Weeds and biocontrol agents
Dozens of arthropods and several species of fungi are being used as biocontrol agents for weeds in New Zealand. Most have been imported from the weeds’ native habitats, but some are self-introduced species that can be managed to help control weeds.
Applications to release biocontrol agents
Decisions about whether or not beneficial organisms can be released are made by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), and before that by the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA).
Weed biocontrol newsletter
Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research produces a newsletter about the biological control of weeds: Weed Biocontrol – What's New?, published 4 times a year.