In 2016, NZ Prime Minister John Key announced that the government would undertake a radical pest extermination programme in the hope of making the nation predator-free by 2050. Key asserts that introduced species are costing the agricultural industry $3.3 billion a year, as well as threatening native wildlife, such as the ground-dwelling Kiwi.
Fortunately, a group of scientists has come up with a new technique that could speed up the country’s ambitious goal. Researchers from the University of Otago call it the ‘Trojan Female Technique’, which is a natural way of making male rodent offspring infertile.
Curbing Rodent Population Rates by Introducing a ‘Sterile’ Mutation
The scientists used mutations in the mitochondria — the ‘powerhouse’ of the cell that turns oxygen into chemical energy — to affect the fertility of male fruit flies. They transposed that trait into carrier female pests later. So, in the same way the ancient Greeks filled the wooden horse with warriors to conquer the walled city of Troy, the scientists aim to have the females that possess the mutated gene mate with wild males to produce other carrier females and infertile males. The result would cripple their reproductive process.
A Significant Reduction in Pest Populations
At first glance, the pest control solution may seem alarming since it involves releasing pests with genetic time-bombs into the wild. As the females reproduce on an ongoing basis, however, there would be a long-term reduction and eventual eradication of pests.
Pure Services, a provider of interior cleaning services, believes proper pest control services should complement the programme to prevent the spread of bacteria and disease. In fact, the researchers assert that the new method, along with current pest control solutions, could lead to about ten generations of pest population reduction.
Natural pest control is possible when you take advantage of fertility issues. By knocking back the fertility of a target male species, the country can keep pest populations under control.