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Dan Watkins was one of the founders of the Ivon Watkins Ltd herbicide company, based in New Plymouth, which later became Ivon Watkins Dow and is now Dow AgroSciences. He was a leading figure in the early weed science research arena within New Zealand. Dan Watkins was a founder of the New Zealand Weeds conference, forerunner of the New Zealand Plant Protection Society. He was also a member of the New Zealand National Research Council and was involved with other scientific bodies. This scholarship has been set up and financed by Dr George Mason, one of the founders of Taranaki Nuchem (now Zelam Limited), in memory of Dan Watkins and to recognise his contribution to weed science within New Zealand. Ronny Groenteman was awarded the 2006/07 Dan Watkins Scholarship in Weed Science. She is a PhD student at the University of Canterbury. Her project aims to improve different aspects of weed biocontrol programmes in New Zealand, using thistles as a case study. More specifically, she is investigating the three nodding thistle biocontrol agents in various multispecies combinations. One aspect of her work looks at the effect of a single biocontrol agent, nodding thistle receptacle weevil, on several closely related thistle species: the target weed, nodding thistle, and other, less weedy species such as winged and slender winged thistles. Ronny is testing whether in the presence of nodding thistle, the other species are more likely to be attacked by this biocontrol agent that is not highly specific. It is possible that such an attack pattern prevents them from becoming weedy. Another aspect is testing interactions between the three nodding thistle biocontrol agents on a single species ­ nodding thistle. Despite the fact that these agents have been in New Zealand for many years now, these interactions have not been studied. It appears that at least one agent interferes with another, which was not anticipated prior to their introduction. Ronny is finding that matrix models could be a powerful tool in predicting the outcomes of such interactions, and help improve decision making in future biocontrol programmes. In another part of this project, Ronny has been able to compare the present densities of multiple thistle species with the densities measured 20 years ago. This is an exciting opportunity to monitor changes in weeds density in relation to biocontrol, because, 20 years ago there was only one nodding thistle biocontrol agent in New Zealand, whereas nowadays, there are three of them. Although other factors, such as land use and management, may also affect thistle densities, these would affect all thistle species, whilst biocontrol is expected to affect only nodding thistle.

© 2007 New Zealand Plant Protection Society (Inc.)

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