Grow­ers ready for pests

A dry lead-in to a hot sum­mer could cause a spike in in­sect num­bers

Gatton Star - - INTO RURAL - Do­minic El­some do­minic.el­[email protected]­ton­star.com.au

THE long, dry lead up to what is ex­pected to be a hot sum­mer has pro­duc­ers wor­ried about the po­ten­tial for a bad pest sea­son.

Agronomists are warn­ing the con­di­tions could make pests more dif­fi­cult to con­trol and said tomato grow­ers could be the worst af­fected.

Lock­yer Val­ley farmer Rick Sut­ton is plan­ning to grow about 70 hectares of Cherry Toma­toes this sea­son.

Sut­ton Farms sup­ply chain stores and the cen­tral mar­kets of Bris­bane, Syd­ney and Mel­bourne with their pro­duce, and Mr Sut­ton said the weather con­di­tions were con­cern­ing.

“It's drier than usual and that does make cer­tain pests more of an is­sue to deal with,” Mr Sut­ton said.

“When the con­di­tions are nor­mal you can con­trol them well, but when con­di­tions be­come ex­treme, so very dry and hot, that makes them more dif­fi­cult to deal with.”

He pointed to West­ern Flower Thrip, Two-spot­ted Mites and Sil­ver Leaf White Fly as the pests most likely to af­fect crops this sea­son.

He said while con­di­tions weren’t look­ing favourable, new ad­vances in con­trol meth­ods and ex­pert ad­vice from lo­cal agronomists would make the dif­fer­ence.

“There’s been a lot of new chem­istry be­come avail­able in the last five years and it's much more en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly and much more pest spe­cific,” he said.

“There's very lit­tle non-tar­geted in­spects that are af­fected by the chem­istry we use.

“It's very spe­cific to the tar­get pest and it's very safe for the rest of the en­vi­ron­ment.”

Smaller back­yard grow­ers and hobby farm­ers won’t be im­mune to pest prob­lems, but Mr Sut­ton said their small scale would al­low them to have a bet­ter idea of what was hap­pen­ing to their plants. He said the first step to con­trol­ling pests was check­ing crops reg­u­larly to catch them early.

“(The pests) are all fairly easy to find if they pay reg­u­lar at­ten­tion and look at the plants,” he said.

“You've got to check them once or twice every week, just to keep an eye on it and learn what these pests look like.

“And talk to peo­ple that can help you about what's the best way to con­trol them.”

PHOTO: DO­MINIC EL­SOME

CROP CHECK­ING: Sut­ton Farm’s Brock Sut­ton in­spects cherry tomato vines on his fam­ily’s farm at Lower Tenthill. Brock’s fa­ther Rick said con­di­tions could make cer­tain pests more dif­fi­cult to con­trol this grow­ing sea­son.

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