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Indigenous Anti-Parasitic Plants at the Centre for Sustainability

Indigenous Anti-Parasitic Plants: Contributions to biodiversity and agricultural sustainability

Principal investigator: Dr Marion Johnson

Brief abstract

Improving biodiversity in agricultural landscapes is vital to New Zealand’s ecological and economic sustainability. Land managers facing opportunity costs with no guarantee of economic benefits are unlikely to abandon current strategies of high chemical applications to livestock and land. However, the current unsustainable practices will prove costly in a rapidly changing marketplace that now demands an environmental validation of a production system.

However, the control of parasitic infections provides one of the major challenges to stock farmers. This study evaluates the effectiveness and practicality of utilising naturally anti-parasitic indigenous plants. Incorporation of these plants into the agricultural landscape might protect stock from parasites and provide nutritive value. It will alter the manner in which the land is managed and provide many environmental benefits whilst simultaneously allowing producers to meet premium market standards for low-chemical environmentally responsible farming.

A lungworm (Dictyocaulus spp) assay was developed to screen selected native plants for in vitro activity against Dictyocaulus, the most important parasite in farmed red deer in New Zealand. Four species were then trialled in vivo, being fed red deer as browse in controlled indoor experiments.

Outcomes

  • Acceptance of the role anti-parasitic plants play in farm management
  • Platform for further research in sheep and cattle, and a greater range of parasites
  • Publication of papers regarding the trial, the practicalities of inclusion of anti-parasitic plants in farm management plans, and the additional benefits of greater biodiversity on farm.