Mātauranga Māori Guided Biodiscovery: New Tools To Control Kauri Dieback

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MBIE SMART IDEA (2017-2019)

Phytophthora are microscopic organisms that cause root rot and dieback diseases in thousands of plant species. It was a Phytophthora species which caused the Irish potato famine in the 1840s. Today they continue to devastate native ecosystems and cause billions of dollars in damage annually. Two species of particular importance in New Zealand are Phytophthora agathidicida, which causes kauri dieback disease, and Phytophthora cinnamomi, which causes root rot in avocados and other agricultural crops.

We are collaborating with Mātauranga Māori knowledge holders (Mr. Chris Pairama and Mr. Te Rangi Kaihoro) to identify native plant species with bioactive, anti-pathogen characteristics. Biochemical and microbiological methods are being used to isolate anti-Phytophthora compounds from these native plants, and we are testing their ability to inhibit various stages of the Phytophthora life cycle. The most promising compounds will also be tested for their effectiveness at stopping infections in controlled glasshouse trials with seedlings.