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Technology and mindset changes to drive new pest management era

Encouraging the use of beneficial insects such as ladybirds to suppress pest insects could be a valuable addition to the IPM toolbox.
Photo: cesar

Managing the ever-changing complex of invertebrate pests is an ongoing challenge for the Australian grains industry. Effective, efficient and sustainable pest management is vital for enduring, profitable farming systems. Although pesticides are one of the tools to achieve this, global regulatory pressures, market requirements and increasing insecticide resistance is driving the need for a paradigm shift in invertebrate pest management.

New frontiers

New frontiers for integrated pest management (IPM) are being explored through GRDC investments that are digging deeper into understanding pests, their life cycles and their interactions with crops, the environment and beneficial insects. Researchers are thinking laterally to develop novel control measures and tools. Extension experts are investigating what drives growers’ and advisers’ decision-making to design support aids that will improve adoption of IPM.

A greater depth of understanding is required to pre-empt and reduce pest outbreaks, monitor changes in pest impact and abundance more effectively, and facilitate whole-farm systems approaches to pest management.

Monitoring and mapping the insecticide resistance of several in-crop invertebrate pests is underway using new technologies. These pests include the green peach aphid, cotton bollworm and redlegged earth mite. Baseline information and forecasting of these pests can inform best management practices for growers.

Further down the value chain, Australia must adhere to a strict ‘nil tolerance’ protocol for live insects in its export commodities to preserve market access. A critical part of this is a GRDC investment monitoring insecticide resistance in grain storages across the nation. Growing insecticide resistance, together with tightening regulatory concerns, will mean biologically based insect control methods will be increasingly required  throughout the grain value chain.

Knowledge bank

GRDC investments are developing knowledge about the ecology and biology of pests to inform dynamic decision-making tools. These will consider pest risks and incorporate forecasting information.

Resistance forecasting helps to prevent spray failures by enabling selection of effective pesticide chemistry. Investments are exploring novel controls to decrease disease transmission and pest feeding impact. Additional investments are improving chemical stewardship and exploring opportunities for harnessing the power of beneficial insects.

Novel approaches

To broaden the suite of crop protection tools available, GRDC continues to invest in innovative approaches to pest management, including:

  • testing a nature-identical synthetic molecule with a unique mode of action against stored grain pests;
  • establishing an association between wheat and a grass-colonising fungi to provide host plant protection against pests, pathogens and abiotic stresses;
  • using naturally occurring protozoa to control pest molluscs;
  • using parasitoid wasps to control aphids; and
  • optimising food-grade, synthetic amorphous silica technology for protecting stored grain.

While sometimes high-risk, GRDC investments in novel approaches ensure that the Australian grains industry is primed to seize opportunities to tackle intractable invertebrate pest issues.

GRDC will continue to chart new frontiers to develop more cost-effective and sustainable options for Australian grain growers to manage invertebrate pests, ensuring that the industry continues to be a global leader.

More information: Dr Leigh Nelson, 0408 305 600, leigh.nelson@grdc.com.au

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