Researcher honoured for revolutionary work

Dr Robert Hill

A Bio-Protection Research Centre senior scientist is honoured to have won an award that recognises his important work for the forestry industry.

Dr Robert Hill recently received the ‘2016 Forest Growers Research Award for Innovation that Adds Value to the Sector’, which is bestowed on individuals who have added measurable benefits to industry and carried out new, untried research approaches.

The award honours the fact that Dr Hill has been helping forest owners from both New Zealand and overseas to save significant amounts of money by reducing their use of expensive chemical controls and managing disease in environmentally friendly ways.

His solution for sustainably boosting tree growth is an effective biological control he has developed from the beneficial root fungus, Trichoderma.

The inoculant, ArborGuard®, was developed as a result of Dr Hill’s research and 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, which greatly improved plantation productivity and reduced the need for fungicides, thereby increasing profits and benefiting the local environment.

As GP Pusaka’s Research and Development Manager Flor Agbayani says, “Dr Hill has revolutionised the forestry industry.”

Dr Hill is now using the experience he gained in Malaysia to increase production in New Zealand’s forestry industry. Pinus radiata treated with locally sourced strains of Trichoderma have led to a reduction in mortality and an increase in tree growth from the best treatments by up to 20%.

These outcomes are expected to increase annual export earnings and benefit the environment due to a reduction in fungicide use.

In addition, the endophytes will protect against biosecurity threats from pathogens and pests not yet in New Zealand forest nurseries and plantations.