Season causes pest spike
Dry, hot conditions lead to harder pest control
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 70ha of cherry tomatoes this season.
Sutton Farms supplies chain stores and the central markets of Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne with its 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,” he 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 are very few non-targeted insects 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 you 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 who can help you work out what’s the best way to control them.”
WITH summer production ramping up in the region, agronomists warn that growers need to stay vigilant to keep on top of pest infestations.
Elders horticultural agronomist Greg Teske said the most important part of controlling pests was catching infestations in the early stages.
“Regular crop checking is the key to managing pests, and that even goes for growers,” Mr Teske said.
“They’re on the farm all the time – go and have a look.
“If all of a sudden they see a high population, they should consult their agronomist and seek advice on what to do.”
After a dry winter and with a hot summer expected, pest numbers could be higher than usual and some pests might be more difficult to control.
“At the moment our main pest is silver leaf white fly, and then we’ve got to watch out for thrip,” Mr Teske said.
However it isn’t a simple task to determine where and what species would be the most prevalent.
“It’s very hard to predict what’s going to happen,” he said.
“In a lot of the cases, one pest isn’t broadly found in the Valley.
“You find you get these hotspots of pests in different areas.”
Mr Teske said the best way for growers to effectively combat any infestations was to work with their agronomist.
“The old saying is prevention is better than cure, so there are a lot of preventative products out there,” he said.
“Before a pest gets out of hand, growers should work with their agronomist and work on a strategy.”
PESKY PESTS: Sutton Farms’ Brock Sutton inspects cherry tomatoes at Tent Hill Creek.