31 Mar 2015

New tool in battle against pest

6:48 am on 31 March 2015

Scientists say a natural bacteria is one step closer to being able to be used in the fight against a pasture pest.

A plantain moth.

A plantain moth. Photo: SUPPLIED / Colin Ferguson

It's now just a case of getting it on the shelves.

Scientists at AgResearch have been working on a naturally-occurring bacterium, Yersinia, that kills caterpillars of the plantain moth for about ten years.

A senior scientist, Mark Hurst, said the moth was becoming an increasing problem throughout New Zealand with more farmers growing plantain because of its resistance to drought.

He said the pest's population can reach more than 11,000 per square meter, causing significant damage to crops.

He said yersinia in the form of spray and bait is the answer to tackling the pest, but it just needed to be manufactured on a large scale.

"Currently we've ticked all the boxes, as it were, undertaking small field trials against other pests such as perina and a beetle called black beetle, which is a Northland pest and we're just showing that it works in the field.

"Our current hurdle now is a common hurdle: the ability to upscale, so we're currently seeking companies that can brew or manufacture a lot of the yersinia so then it's available in a quantity that's suitable to go to market."