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Using Science and Technology to Fight Kauri Dieback

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Science, technology, and traditional Māori knowledge are all playing a part in the fight against kauri dieback.

Understanding the disease

It is almost impossible to get rid of Phytophthora from soil. Scientists are trying to understand how kauri dieback behaves. They have been looking at what role the environment plays in how trees become infected. For example, the effect of temperature and soil moisture.

Scientists at Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research are trying to solve the kauri dieback mystery. Their research includes:

  • heat treating soil to kill the disease
  • understanding how far kauri dieback spores can be found around and under an infected tree
  • whether streams can carry the disease to new places.

Genetically strong trees

Scion is trying to find out if kauri trees have any natural way to fight kauri dieback. They have been looking at seedlings from different parent trees. What they have found is that different kauri family lines have different responses to infection. Kauri trees may be grown in the future to resist kauri dieback. 

A chemical band-aid

Scientists At Plant and Food Research are using phosphite injections to help infected kauri trees. These injections are like a band-aid for sick trees. They slow the signs of kauri dieback and allows the tree to live longer. But it does not cure the disease and the treatment needs repeating after a while.

Scientists are also looking at using phosphite sprays on diseased trees.

Using natural products

Scientists are also looking at using natural products. Biological control is where you use other organisms to help fight the disease. One such case being looked at is the use of a fungus called Trichoderma to help fight kauri dieback.

Kauri forests from above and on a computer

Aerial photographs of kauri forests is used to look at the number of dead and diseased trees. It is also used to watch healthy trees. Aerial photographs of the Waitākere forests in 2011 and 2016 show that the number of diseased and dead trees has increased.

New research is looking at technology such as remote sensing tools. This includes satellite images and sensors placed on aeroplanes which can detect the health of kauri trees.

New wireless computer technology lets scientists move information in a kauri forest to an office computer. 

Using traditional Māori knowledge to help fight the disease

Māori world view sees all things within Te Wao Nui a Tāne as connected. Māori are watching the health of their kauri forests by watching the health of other plant and animal species that live there. Such species are called Cultural Health Indicators. Stress in a forest will show up in these indicators. The health of these indicators could show if the disease is in a forest and what effect it is having. 

Māori have also started looking at using traditional medicines to improve forest health and reduce the impact of kauri dieback.

Cleaning your shoes

Cleaning dirty footwear when going inand out of a kauri forest helps stop kauri dieback spreading. 3-dimensional technology has helped design better cleaning stations.

Audio Māori keywords: 


Find out more: Read more about current research on the Kauri Dieback website.

Scientists at Manaaki Whenua/Landcare Research are trying to unravel the mystery of kauri dieback disease. What sorts of things are they researching? Image: LEARNZ.

Scion has been looking at seedlings from different parent trees. What have they found out and what might this mean? Image: Creative Commons.

Scientists At Plant and Food Research are using phosphite injections to help infected kauri trees. What does this do? Image: MPI.

New research is looking at how technology can help in the fight against kauri dieback. Here you can see a Feildspectrometer being set-up for remote sensing. Image: MPI.

3-dimensional technology has enabled the design of more efficient and effective cleaning stations. Image: Department of Conservation.

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Where Did Kauri Dieback Come From?
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