Growers encouraged to plan ahead for controlling canola pests

Northern canola workshops prompt pick-up in IPM adoption early in the growing season

Learning & Development
Bowden Rural Services principal agronomist, Phil Bowden, says participation in GRDC canola pest management workshops and field walks highlights the extent of industry interest in using alternatives to chemical-only pest control methods. PHOTO GRDC

Bowden Rural Services principal agronomist, Phil Bowden, says participation in GRDC canola pest management workshops and field walks highlights the extent of industry interest in using alternatives to chemical-only pest control methods. PHOTO GRDC

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Practical IPM workshops in the north provide valuable tips for early season pest control.

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Practical workshops addressing early season canola pest management are helping to bolster industry's uptake of integrated pest management (IPM) principles and improve the effectiveness of control strategies.

A survey of participants who attended a series of northern region workshops about pests in establishing canola crops found 99 per cent now use - or intend to incorporate - IPM practices into their farming systems.

An investment of the GRDC - with assistance from FarmLink, Australian Oilseeds Federation (AOF), NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) and Local Land Services - the workshops equipped participants with practical tips on identifying, monitoring and controlling early season pests to maximise crop establishment.

These were held across southern, central and northern New South Wales in the lead up to the 2019 canola season and were followed up with a mid-season paddock walk, a webinar conducted by sustainable agriculture research organisation cesar and a YouTube presentation.

IPM proves popular

The workshops and field walks attracted more than 340 advisers and growers, highlighting the extent of industry interest in alternatives to chemical-only control methods.

Lead workshop presenter, Bowden Rural Services principal agronomist, Phil Bowden, says the workshops have increased:

  • participants' knowledge of pest identification and host range;
  • awareness of beneficial invertebrate groups; and
  • confidence to implement cultural, chemical and biological control measures.

"The workshops were designed to deliver IPM knowledge in a practical way to assist growers and advisers to apply an effective pest monitoring and control approach in the paddock," Mr Bowden says.

"For years, we've been trying to move away from the practice of applying `insurance sprays', whereby a pesticide is applied at the same time as a herbicide spray whether it's required or not, because it destroys the natural enemies that are resident in paddocks.

"The workshops equipped participants with an awareness of which beneficial insects are present in paddocks, what their role is and what can be done to encourage them."

The workshops were designed to deliver IPM knowledge in a practical way to assist growers and advisers to apply an effective pest monitoring and control approach in the paddock. - Bowden Rural Services principal agronomist Phil Bowden

Mr Bowden says successful pest management in canola relies on:

  • accurate identification of both the pests and the beneficial insects;
  • an understanding of their behaviour and roles; and
  • a comprehension of the objective and likely impact of chemical control methods.

Plan ahead

The IPM workshops encouraged participants to assess potential pest issues prior to planting by considering paddock history and the propensity of certain crops and stubble loads to encourage pest incidence - and then develop an appropriate multi-pronged management strategy.

"The aim is to have as few surprises as possible to maximise crop establishment and growth," Mr Bowden says.

"Insect pests can be a significant issue in new canola crops.

"Canola has a tiny seedling which can be difficult to get out of the ground and so it becomes a target for a range of damaging pests, such as mites, wireworms/false wireworms, slugs, cutworms and earwigs.

"We are now seeing crops targeted by pests that we've never seen before in canola, largely due to the increased stubble loads retained in modern farming systems.

"So it's important that we adopt an IPM approach to ensure our control methods are effective, sustainable and maximise the productivity and profitability of our canola crops and broader farming systems."

Help is at hand

A key factor in broadening the adoption of IPM practices across the canola industry will be access to comprehensive technical resources and decision-making support, according to Mr Bowden.

He says a key aim of the workshops was to strengthen industry networks and foster capacity building opportunities.

"We delivered the workshops with the assistance of experienced agronomists and entomologists - Peter Watt, Penny Heuston, Don McCaffery, Lisa Castleman, Melina Miles and Zorica Duric - who offer a wealth of knowledge and decision-making support to others in the industry," he says.

Agronomists attending the IPM workshops were given a copy of cesar's recently released canola pest best management practice guide, as well as a macro lens, and were encouraged to submit photos to the PestFacts service.

"The response has been exceptional, which will assist us greatly in increasing the adoption of IPM in canola," Mr Bowden says.

"Follow-up Skype sessions will be held with workshop and farm walk participants in early 2020 to gain feedback on the program and gather suggestions for future extension activities."

See also:

GRDC Research Code CES1810-001SAX

More Information: Phil Bowden, Bowden Rural Services, 0427 201 946, phil@bowdenrural.com

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