Sea­son causes pest spike

Dry, hot con­di­tions lead to harder pest con­trol

The Western Star - - RURAL WEEKLY - Do­minic El­some

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.

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