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Completed project

Strengthening cultural and biological management of pests and diseases in apple and pear orchards (AP19002)

Key research provider: Victorian Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action
Publication date: Monday, September 18, 2023

What was it all about?

From 2020 to 2023, this investment provided growers and advisors within the apple and pear industry with high quality information on integrated pest and disease management (IPDM), to support increased confidence in IPDM decision making within the sector.

The program demonstrated the effectiveness of biological control methods, addressing knowledge gaps hindering the adoption of practices that support biodiversity and soil health. These aspects are crucial for pest management while maintaining plant health, fruit yield, and quality.

In orchard trials in Victoria and Tasmania, conservation biological control experiments revealed the potential for habitat manipulation in apple and pear IPDM systems. These experiments indicated that altering ground cover within orchards can increase arthropod abundance and diversity, promoting predators like earwigs and spiders. Such gains have the potential to aid nutrient cycling, suppress pests, and enhance canopy health. However, obstacles to implementation, particularly native vegetation in orchard blocks, were identified as potential barriers to widespread adoption.

In research specifically focused on the contribution of Trichogrammatidae parasitoids, the project team confirmed that the pest codling moth is a suitable host for Trichogramma carverae under laboratory conditions. Furthermore, the team’s results indicated that T. carverae has considerable potential for control of codling moth in orchard situations, and that further ecological studies are warranted. 

The research also discovered previously unrecorded diversity amongst the beneficial Trichogramma taxa occupying an experimental pear orchard. These findings highlighted the importance of understanding the role of existing parasitoids in apple and pear orchards and how habitat management can support their populations.

The establishment of the codling moth parasitoid Mastrus ridens in Australia was not evidenced, attributed to low genetic diversity resulting from laboratory culture. A genetically diverse strain of M. ridens was imported to improve establishment chances. Several releases were conducted across orchards in multiple states in 2022/23, with impact assessments planned for subsequent years.

The project produced a wide range of communication materials and opportunities for growers to learn about the outcomes of the research such as YouTube videos, organised community of practice meetings and published numerous articles on the ExtensionAus Australian Apple and Pear IPDM website and in industry publications.

This program was part of the PIPS3 program for the apple and pear industry (the third iteration of the Productivity, Irrigation, Pests and Soils program). The other investments that made up this scope of work were:

Related levy funds

This project was a strategic levy investment in the Hort Innovation Apple and Pear Fund