Leigh Pilkington

Research interests

  • Development of biological control agents of horticultural insect pests
  • Development of reduced risk pesticides
  • Integrated pest management
  • Management of and preparedness for emergency plant pests


Leigh is a graduate of the University of Canberra and soon after joined the Agricultural Scientific Collections Unit, NSW Agriculture*, in 1997 as part of the fruit fly monitoring team. In 1998 he was offered a short-term position at The University of Sydney undertaking a survey of lucerne seed crops to assess the impact of Australian lucerne yellows (ALuY) phytoplasma disease.

Leigh spent 1999 travelling internationally taking part in volunteer conservation activities such as informal environmental impact statements in Thailand and Burma, mapping of clearing activities of Australian wattle in South Africa, monitoring of endangered loggerhead sea turtles in Greece and tracking condors with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) in Australia approved a funded project for a PhD student to study ALuY, its epidemiology and its vector(s) with the aim of producing a management plan for the disease. Leigh was appointed to this position in February 2000 and completed his PhD at the University of Sydney, Orange under joint supervision of Geoff Gurr (University of Sydney) and Murray Fletcher (NSW Agriculture) and graduated in December 2003.

Leigh joined the Hoddle laboratory at the University of California, Riverside, in April 2004 and was involved in researching the developmental and reproductive biology of three Gonatocerus spp. that are associated with the biological control of Homalodisca vitripennis, an important pest in southern California and in many parts of the world such as Tahiti and Hawaii. He is continuing some of this work now with a project focusing on risk assessment and preparedness for the incursion of the insect pest or the disease it vectors.

Since joining the Department of Primary Industries in March, 2006, Leigh has been involved in the development of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies for protected horticulture. His work involves the development and optimisation of biological control agents, reduced risk pesticides and good agricultural practices within these systems.

*NSW Department of Primary Industries was formed on July 1, 2004 through an amalgamation of NSW Agriculture, NSW Fisheries, State Forests of NSW and the NSW Department of Mineral Resources.


  • BAppSc Resource and Environmental Science 1997 - University of Canberra, Australia
  • PhD Rural Management 2003 -  University of Sydney, Australia

Current projects

  • Regional extension strategy for managing western flower thrips and tomato spotted wilt virus in the Sydney region
  • IPM for greenhouse vegetables - research to industry
  • Development of IPM strategies  and tools for western flower thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis) in hydroponic  lettuce
  • Development of Hippodamia and Micromus biocontrol agents for use in  Brassica and other vegetable crops
  • Commercial Mass Rearing System for Transeius (=Typhlodromips) montdorensis
  • Risk assessment and biosecurity preparedness for glassy-winged sharpshooter and the plant pathogenic bacterium Xylella fastidiosa

Recent publications

Gurr GM, Horne P, Page J, Ash GJ and Pilkington LJ (2010) Australia and New Zealand biocontrol conference: Emerging themes, future prospects Special Issue Introduction. Biological Control 52 (3): 195-197.

Pilkington LJ, Messelink G, van Lenteren JC and Le Mottee K (2010) ‘‘Protected Biological Control” – Biological pest management in the greenhouse industry. Biological Control 52 (3): 216-220

Pilkington LJ (2008) Australian Lucerne Yellows. In 'Characterization, Diagnosis and Management of Phytoplasmas'. (Eds NA Harrison, GP Rao, C Marcone) pp. 307-324. (Stadium Press LLC: Delhi).

Getachew MA, Mitchell A, Gurr GM, Fletcher MJ, Pilkington LJ and Nikandrow A (2007) First report of a ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma australiense’ - related strain in lucerne in Australia. Plant Disease (1): 111

Pilkington LJ and Hoddle MS (2007) Use of life tables to quantify reproductive and developmental biology of Gonatocerus triguttatus (Hymenoptera: Mymaridae), an egg parasitoid of Homalodisca vitripennis (Hemiptera: Cicadellidae). Biological Control 42: 1-8

Pilkington LJ and Hoddle MS (2007) Predictions of invasion success of Gonatocerus triguttatus (Hymenoptera: Mymaridae), an egg parasitoid of Homalodisca vitripennis (Hemiptera: Cicadellidae), in California using life table statistics and degree–day values.  Biological Control 42: 9-15

Pilkington LJ, and Hoddle MS (2006) Reproductive and developmental biology of Gonatocerus ashmeadi (Hymenoptera: Mymaridae), and egg parasitoid of Homalodisca coagulata (Hemiptera: Cicadellidae). Biological Control 37: 266-275

Pilkington LJ, and Hoddle MS (2006) Use of life table statistics and degree-day values to predict the invasion success of Gonatocerus ashmeadi (Hymenoptera: Mymaridae), and egg parasitoid of Homalodisca coagulata (Hemiptera: Cicadellidae), in California. Biological Control 37: 276-283

Pilkington LJ, Irvin NA, Boyd EA, Hoddle MS, Triapitsyn SV, Carey BG, Jones WA, Morgan DJW (2005) Introduced parasitic wasps could control glassy-winged sharpshooter.  California Agriculture. 59 (4): 223-228

Pilkington LJ, Gurr GM, Fletcher MJ, Elliott E, Nikandrow A and Nicol HI (2004) Reducing the immigration of suspected leafhopper vectors and severity of Australian lucerne yellows disease. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 44: 983-992

Pilkington LJ, Gurr GM, Fletcher MJ, Nikandrow A and Elliott E (2004) Vector status of three leafhopper species for Australian lucerne yellows phytoplasma. Australian Journal of Entomology 43: 366-373

Pilkington LJ, Gibb KS, Gurr GM, Fletcher MJ, Nikandrow A, Elliott E, van de Ven R and Read DMY (2003) Detection and identification of a phytoplasma from lucerne with 'Australian lucerne yellows' disease. Plant Pathology. 52 (6): 754-762

Pilkington L, Gurr GM, Fletcher MJ, Nikandrow A and Elliott E (1999) Occurrence and severity of lucerne yellows disease in Australian lucerne seed crops. Australasian Plant Pathology. 28: 235-239.

Professional associations and activities

  • Australian Entomological Society (member)
  • International Organization for the Biological Control of Noxious Animals and Plants – Asian and Pacific Regional Section, IOBC-APRS (treasurer)

Fields of research

070603 Horticultural Crop Protection (Pests, Diseases and Weeds)

Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification (ANZSRC)

Keyword/phrase list of research interests

  • Biocontrol
  • Biological Control
  • Reduced Risk Pesticides
  • Biorational
  • Greenhouse
  • Protected horticulture

Contact details

Email: leigh.pilkington@dpi.nsw.gov.au