Thursday, 18 December 2014

Tiny wasps to safeguard forest plantations in the Mekong region

Tiny wasps were the subject of the first meeting for partners in the ACIAR project ‘Biological control of galling insect pests of eucalypts’ held in Vientiane, Lao PDR in July 2014. Delegates from Vietnam, Cambodia and Lao PDR outlined the eucalypt pest situation in the Mekong region, where large-scale reforestation projects are in train.

The project aims to develop effective biocontrol measures to manage the gall wasp (Leptocybe invasa), which attacks eucalypts in the Mekong region.  It involves gathering international expertise to apply biocontrol that will enable the Mekong region to respond rapidly and effectively to future threats from these invasive pests. The project will benefit plantation managers, nursery and smallholder growers, as well as local communities.

Participants at the inception meeting in Vientiane, Lao PDR. 

The wasps cause plant galls, which are the lumpy growths on leaves and stems that plants produce around eggs laid by some insects known as galling insects. The feeding larvae and the energy used in producing galls suppress plant growth and can cause economic damage to tree nurseries and plantations.

Damage to growth in young eucalypts caused by the gall wasp Leptocybe invasa.

The gall wasp is regarded as one of the most severe, invasive eucalypt pests affecting plantation forestry worldwide. In recent years the wasps have become a huge impediment to new eucalypt plantations and reforestation programs in the Mekong region.

The researchers are looking at ways to identify and release suitable biocontrol agents, including parasitoid wasps, already in the region. They will also test and release appropriate parasitoids from other regions. Partner countries will collaborate in research, surveys and training to learn about the pests and their biocontrol agents, develop forest health surveillance, share information, and screen, release and evaluate effective control agents.

The parasitoid wasps seek out and lay their eggs on or inside the gall wasp larvae living in the galls. The hatched parasitoids consume the immature gall wasps before they can leave the gall as adults, so preventing them from attacking new plants.

The project’s inception meeting for partners was hosted this year by the National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute (NAFRI) in Vientiane. Project leader, Dr Simon Lawson discussed the project’s objectives; showing how it would generate more knowledge about the gall wasps, their genetic variation, the damage they cause and the parasitoids that are likely biocontrol agents. He also discussed the important redistribution and introductions of biocontrol agents as well as training for forest operatives in the Mekong region.

Dr Simon Lawson shows damage symptoms caused by gall wasps in eucalypts.

The first day of the meeting was spent planning surveillance programs for gall wasps and their known parasitoids in all partner countries, and discussing systems for screening and releasing new parasitoids. On the second day, the delegates travelled to a nursery, plantations and a sawmill, to look at pest symptoms and discuss methods for collecting, rearing and testing insects. The third day of the meeting was spent planning specifically for NAFRI’s role in the project.

The project is expected to also include the Forest Research and Development Bureau, the Royal Forest Department, Thailand.

Participants visiting a nursery near Vientiane.

More information:

Project contact: Dr Simon Lawson:

Project partners:

• Dr Linkham Douangsavanh, Deputy Director General of NAFRI
• Dr Simon Lawson, Project Leader, University of the Sunshine Coast and Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Queensland Australia
• Australian Centre for International Agriculture Research
Representatives of collaborating organisations include:
• Cambodian Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Forestry Administration
• Vietnam Academy of Forest Sciences
• Birla Lao Pulp and Plantation Company Limited
• Burapha Agroforestry Company Limited
• Oji Lao Plantation Forest Company Limited
• Stora Enso Lao Company Limited
• Sun Paper Holding Lao Company Limited

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