Dr Robert Hill recently joined the Biotechnology Team. He has expertise in developing biocontrol methods for the forestry and plantation industry. Dr Hill has been consulting on forest bioinoculant usage in Malaysia for the past ten years. His work has focused predominately on the Planted Forest Zone in Sarawak, Borneo where he has developed biocontrol solutions for GP Pusaka Sdn Bnd for use in their nursery at Samarakan.
Dr Hill’s approach has been to isolate beneficial Trichoderma fungi from the roots of healthy plants and then trial them for growth promotion and disease control. To facilitate this, Dr Hill designed an onsite Biological Discovery Unit (BDU) at Samarakan and then mentored the staff by teaching them various scientific methodology and techniques, including the isolation, production, trialling and practical application of Trichoderma. This teaching model is currently being reproduced at the Minginui Nursery in NZ and is part of the NZ Government funded Nitrogen-fixing Pines and Grasses programme.
This approach was so successful, in 2010, GP Pusaka invoked a change in Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to completely eliminate fungicide applications and switched to full inoculation of all Acacia mangium seedlings with selected Trichoderma strains. Productivity has increased significantly in the nursery and in the plantation areas. The Trichoderma bioinoculant successfully reduced crop losses from disease and promoted growth. This methodology has since been transferred to other plantation species such as Eucalyptus pellita and E. deglupta.
Lincoln Agritech colleague, Dr Johanna Steyaert recently came back from a consultancy visit to GP Pusaka in Borneo. Whilst she was there she monitored and evaluated the use of Trichoderma within the plantations.
Team Leader, Dr Richard Weld is optimistic about the project progress and hopes to tackle similar projects like this one in the near future.
Lincoln Agritech’s Biotechnology Team is actively engaged in collecting, testing and commercialising naturally occurring micro-organisms such as bacteria and fungi for application in the agriculture and forestry industry. Current research includes the biological control of plant diseases such as powdery mildew; micro-organisms and enzymes for biosensors; and plant growth promotion and plant protection through using Trichoderma fungi.Figure 1: The first trial planted at Samarakan on the use of Trichoderma root-endophytes for Acacia mangium production.