31 October 2006
A new environmentally-friendly treatment to control the tiny parasitic worms which plague the livestock sector is set to become a commercial reality.
Since 1997, CSIRO researchers and their partners at Sydney-based company, International Animal Health Products Pty Ltd, have worked to develop effective methods to grow and introduce the fungus, Duddingtonia flagrans, into stockfeed.
The breakthrough follows years of research to prove the effectiveness of the naturally occurring fungus which traps and eats nematode parasites.
"The fungus is environmentally friendly as it has no measurable impact on soil microfauna and does not persist in the soil after killing off the parasites."
CSIRO Livestock Industries Principal Research Scientist, Dr Malcolm Knox, said the biological control agent was expected to have an international market as livestock producers face ever increasing parasite resistance to chemical drenches.
"It's a clean, green method of reducing the parasite burden which can be used in conjunction with a range of other control strategies," Dr Knox said.
He said field trials at Armidale involving feeding the spores with a grain supplement had proven that a high level of parasite control could be achieved. Nematode numbers were reduced by about 75 per cent in experiments using sheep and up to 90 per cent with horses.
The spores survive passage through the gut of animals and pass into the manure where they germinate alongside the nematode eggs, trapping and feeding on the newly emerging larvae. The fungus is environmentally friendly as it has no measurable impact on soil microfauna and does not persist in the soil after killing off the parasites.
Dr Knox said his research team used laboratory experience in fermentation and culture preparation in the search for ways to mass produce the spores so they could be used in a practical way.
"We knew the fungus spores were effective, but we had to go through a process of trial and error to come up with a means of delivery that could be easily used by livestock producers," he said.
A licence agreement to develop this technology has been signed by International Animal Health Products Pty Ltd which is proceeding with the necessary steps to commercialisation. A number of delivery techniques have been investigated including molasses blocks, controlled release capsules, feed pellets and loose feed pre-mixes.
"Farmers will be able to introduce the fungus during normal feeding practices in paddocks or pens and lower the rate of reinfection by substantially reducing emergence of parasite larvae from faeces," Dr Knox said.
"Used in conjunction with effective chemotherapy and grazing management practices, biological control will be a valuable addition to integrated parasite control programs."
Dr Malcolm Knox (PhD)
CSIRO Livestock Industries
Phone: 61 2 6776 1440
Fax: 61 2 6776 1333