A Lincoln University senior scientist is honoured to have won an award that recognises his important work for the forestry industry.
Dr Robert Hill has been helping forest owners from both New Zealand and overseas to reduce their use of expensive chemical controls and manage disease in environmentally-friendly ways.
He recently received the ‘2016 Forest Growers Research Award for Innovation that Adds Value to the Sector’, which honours individuals who have added measurable benefits to industry and carried out new, untried research approaches.
Dr Hill’s solution for sustainably boosting tree growth is a biological control he developed from the root fungus, Trichoderma.
An inoculant called ArborGuard was developed as a result of Dr Hill’s research and he says it works wonders to increase nursery survival rates, improve seedling growth, and make trees more resistant to disease.
Dr Hill has worked closely with Malaysian timber company, GP Pusaka, to develop a Trichoderma-based biocontrol system for their nurseries.
GP Pusaka’s Research and Development Manager, Flor Agbayani, says the system greatly improved plantation productivity and reduced the need for fungicides, thereby increasing profits and benefiting the local environment.
“Dr Hill has revolutionised the forestry industry,” Mr Agbayani says.
Dr Hill is now using the experience he gained in Malaysia to increase production in New Zealand’s forestry industry.
“Treating Pinus radiata with locally-sourced strains of the Trichoderma solution has led to a reduction in mortality and an increase in tree growth from the best treatments by up to 20%,” Dr Hill says.
“These outcomes are expected to increase annual export earnings and benefit the environment due to a reduction in fungicide use.
“The endophytes will also protect against biosecurity threats from pathogens and pests not yet in New Zealand forest nurseries and plantations.”
Robert Hill is based at the Bio-Protection Research Centre, located on the Lincoln University campus.