Paintball Poison: Airborne Marksmen To Take Aim At Invasive Plants

Forest and Kim Starr, Plants of Hawaii

The Department of Land and Natural Resources has obtained the state procurement officer’s approval to purchase a herbicide that can target remote stands of Australian tree ferns, kahili ginger, and banana poka.

The herbicide, HBT-IMAZ, is registered for use only in the state of Hawaii, and only on those three species of plants.

What makes it even more unusual is the method of delivery: paintballs, shot from airguns by marksmen in helicopters or on the ground.

Maker of the ammo is the Nelson Paint Company, which is probably better known for its paintballs than its pesticides.

According to Lance de Silva, of the Kauai branch of the DLNR’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife, the chemical was developed by James Leary of the University of Hawaii’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.

“He worked hand in hand with the company” – manufacturer Wilbur-Ellis – “to get it registered,” and then with the paint company to design the delivery system. “It’s kind of his baby,” de Silva said.

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