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Demonstrations show the value of learning from others

Publication date: 14 November 2022

Research into scale and mealybug management options is facilitating opportunities for lychee growers to consider their management practices and look for improvements.

The investment Scale and mealybug management options for lychee growers – an extension toolkit (LY20001) is delivering an extension toolkit for lychee growers on how to manage scale and mealybug pests effectively. The project team are surveying lychee orchards across key growing regions during the growing season to gain an overview of the scale and mealybug problem, including collection of data on the diversity of these pests and what grower control practices are currently being used.

The extension toolkit will compile this information for lychee growers, with a focus on the lifecycle of these pests and management options available to growers (including chemical and biological). This material will also be presented in a series of workshops across key growing regions such as North Queensland, Mackay, Rockhampton, Bundaberg, and the Sunshine Coast, as well as the annual lychee growers’ meeting.

Meet Stephan and Marianne, lychee growers from the Sunshine Coast

Stephan and Marianne were originally sheep farmers from South Africa, but after moving to Australia and some time out of agriculture, in 2017 they bought an established lychee orchard at Ilkley in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. The property is 17 hectares with 5.4 hectares planted with 2,600 lychee trees (B3 cultivar) which are about 20 years old.

Stephan put up his hand to host the Australian Lychee Growers Association annual growers’ meeting on their farm in 2021. Rather than just present progress on the scale and mealybug toolkit, project lead Yan Diczbalis suggested to Stephan it could be an opportunity for Allan Blair (Senior Extension Development Officer, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland) to do a small trial/demonstration of pesticide spray application.

Stephan had been struggling with his sprayer and achieving effective application and had sought advice over the phone from Allan. The opportunity to have someone with Allan’s extensive technical knowledge and experience do such an activity on his farm, was one not to be missed. The day before the meeting they set up a demonstration to look at spray application results using ultra-violet tracers to show coverage.

Did you learn anything?

We picked up all sorts of insights and knowledge, about calibration and other important considerations, whilst working with Allan to set up the demonstration of eight different combinations of operating pressure and ground speed combinations. The evening after the demonstration we went back to look at the results more closely as the UV impact was still visible. As a result, we changed how we sprayed our trees to improve coverage.

Participation in this activity changed my attitude about being involved/not being involved in industry events aimed at sharing knowledge. Being involved in this demonstration showed the value of being prompted to question and look beyond how we were doing things – which were based on how the previous owner operated.

When we bought the farm, we were very hesitant about meeting people and getting involved, we wanted to farm on our own. This experience opened our eyes to the benefits of dealing with people – everything is not on Google. There is so much value in interacting with people in the industry – it is a privilege to learn from experienced people like Allan who have a wealth of knowledge to tap into. We have now invited another group to come and do some tests on native bee pollination.

What has been the benefit?

Following what we learnt from the demonstration we changed our spray application practice last September. In January, samples of fruit were closely checked for pests as part of some trials testing use of a high-pressure sprayer to clean fruit of pests for export. The unwashed samples were found to be relatively clean of pests in comparison to the previous year and what is typical in the industry. Whilst this cannot be conclusively attributed to improved spray application and efficacy, it likely contributed to reduced pest load on the fruit.

“The biggest benefit has been financial. Cleaner fruit gets a better price. It also make the grading process quicker because our staff do not have to scrutinise fruit so closely and this saves wages.” Stephan, lychee farmer, Sunshine Coast

The biggest benefit has been financial. Cleaner fruit gets a better price. It also make the grading process quicker because our staff do not have to scrutinise fruit so closely and this saves wages.

Being able to share this demonstration with others is a benefit in itself, otherwise we would just be doing what we’ve always done rather than looking for improvements. Since that day we are willing to participate in anything that may help us look critically at our practices and possibly help find improvements for our business and others.