A programme to introduce imported dung beetles to New Zealand farms is being rolled out on Thursday.
Eleven species of beetles have been mass reared in containment after being imported under quarantine conditions two years ago.
The first release is underway in Southland, where about 500 of the little manure spreaders are being liberated on an organic dairy farm near Gore.
The aim is to use the insects to help break down the animal dung that covers an estimated 700,000 hectares of pastoral farmland in New Zealand, in the process improving soil health and productivity and reducing nutrient run-off.
Southland Regional Council biosecurity manager Richard Bowman says the $10,000 the council has invested is money well spent.
He says the council felt there was potential in using the same principals of biological control used to control weeds, to improve soil and water quality.
The Dung Beetle Release Strategy Group has plans for more releases onto farms in other parts of the country.