Ex­pert helps out shire’s olive grow­ers

Ovens & Murray Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - By CORAL COOKSLEY

AN IN­TER­NA­TION­ALLY renowned ex­pert in olive tree dis­eases vis­ited Indigo Shire olive grow­ers ear­lier this month to help iden­tify and man­age a po­ten­tial killer bug dis­cov­ered in the re­gion. Known as the olive lace bug – na­tive to Aus­tralia – it was iden­ti­fied in the Hunter Val­ley in NSW close to two decades ago, and is now found in most olive grow­ing ar­eas around the na­tion ex­cept in Tas­ma­nia and the North­ern Ter­ri­tory.

Beech­worth Olives grower Es­ther Townes said grow­ers in the North East who re­alised they had a prob­lem turned to plant pathol­o­gist and con­sul­tant Dr Vera Sergeeva from Syd­ney for help. “Dr Sergeeva leads with an­swers to help grow­ers with iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and man­ag­ing prob­lems,” she said.

With the prob­lem­atic use of chem­i­cal sprays, Ms Townes said Dr Sergeeva could sug­gest or­ganic meth­ods from her in­ter­na­tional re­search and ex­pe­ri­ence.

With a 27-year re­search ca­reer in pest and dis­ease man­age­ment, Dr Sergeeva said close to two decades had been spent with a fo­cus on olives and grapes where she worked with olive grow­ers around the na­tion as well as over­seas.

“The olive lace bug is one of the most com­mon olive pests that is only found in Aus­tralia,” she said.

She said the bug hit other olive grow­ing ar­eas across Aus­tralia through itin­er­ant work­ers and where har­vest ma­chines may not be cleaned when trav­el­ling to dif­fer­ent groves.

The prac­tice spread other pests and dis­eases as well that in­fected in­ter­state olive crops.

Other causes in­cluded wind­blown bugs into crops from forests, within a grove, from tree to tree or nearby groves, and from nurs­eries where there had been plant move­ment.

Dr Sergeeva said the par­a­sitic sap-suck­ing bug rated an equal first with an olive dis­ease known as the brown or black scale that threat­ened the coun­try’s multi-mil­lion dol­lar olive in­dus­try.

“The bug is ex­po­nen­tially re­pro­duced up to four gen­er­a­tions in a year,” she said.

Ris­ing Sun Olive Grove grower, Terry Hayes said the overuse of chem­i­cal in­sec­ti­cides in the olive grow­ing in­dus­try as well as the ef­fects of cli­mate change had con­trib­uted to the prob­lem.

Olive groves vis­ited on the field day in the North East were Goora­madda, L’Oliv­e­riae and Mt Su­gar­loaf (Beech­worth Olives).

Dr Sergeeva vis­ited Woor­agee Pri­mary School to in­ves­ti­gate af­fected olive trees as well as Wodonga TAFE where olive trees were used for teach­ing tools by its De­part­ment of Hor­ti­cul­ture and Agri­cul­ture.

Dr Sergeeva de­liv­ered a fas­ci­nat­ing talk to Woor­agee pri­mary school stu­dents about health ben­e­fits of olive trees, olive oil and where tooth brushes could be made from young tree branches too.

Among her ex­ten­sive re­search, Dr Sergeeva was in­vited to work on a project called ‘Sus­tain­able Pest and Dis­ease Man­age­ment in Aus­tralian Olive Pro­duc­tion’ with the Ru­ral In­dus­tries Re­search and De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (RIRDC) in 2001. She has pub­lished a field guide to as­sist olive pro­duc­ers to re­duce re­liance on chem­i­cal use in olive groves.

PEST DIS­COV­ERY: In­ter­na­tional ex­pert in olive tree dis­eases Dr Vera Sergeeva in­spects the olive lace bug found on leaves of olive trees with Woor­agee pri­mary school stu­dents Dou­glas Glad­stone (left), Ab­bie Glad­stone, Lo­gan Carter and head school gar­dener Owen Gem­mell last month.

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