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Kauai fires herbicide capsules to get rid of invasive miconia

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LIHUE » Officials looking to control invasive species on Kauai are using helicopters and paintball guns to help fight a plant that causes erosion, blocks sunlight from other species and sucks up precious rainwater.

The Kauai Invasive Species Committee has been shooting herbicide capsules at miconia plants, which are present on about 300 acres in the Wai­lua Game Management Area and Wai­lua State Park, the Garden Island reported.

The method involves firing a capsule onto a plant’s leaves or stem from above.

The procedure was developed by James Leary, a specialist with the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management at the University of Hawaii.

"I really try to emphasize the surgical nature," Leary said. "We’re really dispelling the notion that large amounts of herbicides are needed to accomplish a job."

Leary says he has been supervising use of the method on Kauai, Maui and Oahu.

He says he eventually plans to train committee staff to use the technology.

Keren Gundersen, project coordinator for the committee, said miconia plants are the committee’s top target.

"It has the potential to destroy our entire watershed," Gundersen said.

By surveying and treating plants at the same time, the technique improves the odds of eradicating plants before they mature and reproduce, she said.

Leary said the goal is to control the miconia before they become a large, uncontrollable problem.

"We can get a return on investment," he said, "which is the elimination of miconia on Kauai."

The committee plans to use the method quarterly.

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