Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

The Landcare Research Toxicology Laboratory – analyses and advice for vertebrate pesticide testing

The Landcare Research Toxicology Laboratory was established in 1989 and specialises in analysing environmental samples for traces of vertebrate pesticides such as 1080, cyanide and various anticoagulants. Some test methods available are accredited under International Accreditation New Zealand (IANZ) and the Ministry of Primary Industries laboratory approval scheme (LAS).

Laboratory staff deal with a range of sample types – water, bait and meat testing are the most common, while other matrices include plants and various biological samples from animals, such as wool, milk, honey, internal organs and bodily fluids. Test results provide important data critical to understanding, monitoring and managing risks around the use of 1080 and other poisons for possum and rodent management. The laboratory provides analytical and formulation support for research projects conducted within Landcare Research, and also has a strong commercial function in carrying out accredited testing for a range of clients including local authorities, private pest control companies, other laboratories, government departments and universities.

Recently staff have worked with the Department of Conservation in developing toxic baits with bird repellents to protect kea and other native birds during pest control operations. Staff developed and validated assays for two bird repellents, then conducted extended trials with baits containing the repellents to determine the longevity and therefore usefulness of these repellents in baits. This project is ongoing.

Testing for 1080 in waterways, catchment areas or in wastewater samples can make up a large proportion of the winter samples sent to the laboratory. The method used can detect 1080 in water at concentrations as low as 0.1 parts per billion (ppb). Since 1990, over 2900 water samples have been tested from areas where 1080 bait has been aerially applied. Over 96% of these samples had no detectable 1080, supporting field research that shows 1080 is biodegradable and does not persist or accumulate in the natural environment.

Laboratory staff also provide a fast-turnaround service where test results are needed quickly, such as following the accidental spill of toxic bait on Anchor  Island, Fiordland, in June 2010. These baits contained the anticoagulant toxin brodifacoum, which is widely used for rodent control. Brodifacoum is known to persist in some animal tissues, so it was obviously important to monitor for residual concentrations of this compound in the environment after the spill. Staff can also monitor for potential environmental contamination from other vertebrate toxins following pest control operations to ensure residues have not entered the food chain, e.g. monitoring for brodifacoum in fish and shellfish after the removal of rats from Ulva Island. Tests for traces of brodifacoum (or other anticoagulants) can be carried out on various samples ranging from water, sediment, fish, invertebrates and birds. The results determine whether continued monitoring is needed or whether harvesting fish and shellfish can resume from a control area.

Quality assurance data are provided to a variety of organisations, including pest control companies, contractors, regional councils, TBfree New Zealand, and the Department of Conservation. Laboratory staff check that baits and formulations are at the expected nominal concentrations prior to the operations, and also provide a service for analysing weathered baits after an operation so that farmers know when it is safe to return stock to their paddocks after poisoning operations.

Stability testing on new bait products, or new formulations of existing products for registration purposes, ensure they meet their registration criteria.

For further information about available tests and prices please contact Laboratory Manager Lynn Booth or refer to the website.

Lynn Booth, Penny Fisher