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Ongoing project

Integrated pest management program for the Australian macadamia industry (various projects from MC16004 to MC16008)

Key research provider: Various

What’s it all about?

This program is responsible for developing, demonstrating and facilitating the adoption of integrated pest management (IPM) strategies, to ultimately support macadamia growers in having pest-resilient farming systems.

It is made up of multiple, interrelated sub-projects, with areas of work including…

  • How inter-row vegetation management can influence the presence of beneficial insects in macadamia orchards

  • Various field trials, testing combinations of IPM tools across the orchard, in each of Australia’s macadamia growing regions

  • How insects respond to compounds and odours of interest, with an initial focus on Sigastus weevil (here, laboratory work will ensure that field trials ultimately involve compounds pests detect and are attracted to)

  • Growing knowledge of key macadamia pests, as well as beneficials, working towards the development of pest identification and management guides

  • Establishing and maintaining laboratory colonies of pests and biological control agents for use across the program’s work, including behavioural studies investigating pest preferences in relation to food, shapes and colours

  • Working with local advisors, pest consultants and industry development officers to develop and deliver extension activities around the project.

The following interrelated sub-projects are working to assist growers to successfully manage pests of macadamia with integrated pest management techniques…

Sub-project MC16004, being delivered by the NSW Department of Primary Industries

Data from a small-scale research trial at the Centre for Tropical Horticulture at Alstonville has been assessed. While the two IPM strategies trialled gave good results for management of macadamia seed weevil, the softer chemistry options for fruitspotting bug did not provide satisfactory control. Other control options for this pest will be addressed in the next season trials in 2018-19.

Nut samples were collected at each of the case study sites that are comparing pest control under IPM with the standard broad-spectrum insecticide. In general, the nuts from standard treatments were less damaged than sites managed with IPM, except for the Northern Rivers sites.

Pests causing problems at various sites included thrips, felted coccid, fruitspotting bug and the scolytid Hypothenemus eruditus.

Consultation with pest experts here and overseas revealed possible alternative treatments for control of felted coccid and the team plans to trial these options as part of the IPM strategy.

You can download two fact sheets on macadamia seed weevil lifecycle and orchard management, and access the Macadamia plant protection guide 2019-20.

The team has also produced a video on macadamia seed weevil management and on macadamia seed weevil life cycle.

Sub-project MC16005, being delivered by the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

The Queensland team has produced spores of four Beauveria isolates for field testing by NSW DPI to find out if the fungi are useful for controlling macadamia seed weevil.

Additional investigations have been carried out with one of the isolates to discover if the fungi are able to live within macadamia plants without causing disease. Beauveria colonies were successfully grown on young nuts offering the possibility that it could offer a second line of defence against seed weevils.  Further studies are investigating the effect of the treated nuts on newly emerged seed weevils.

Existing pheromone insect traps are being evaluated by the team, for effectiveness against banana spotting bug. Users reported mixed results, so work is underway to solve technical issues with further R&D planned to improve the trap design.

Information from the industry benchmarking project (MC15005) was compared to factory reject data from 2009 to 2017 to identify insect damage trends by season, region, tree age and farm size. The results have been reported to the IPM program’s entomologist to help guide IPM programs and inform discussions with growers, consultants and processors.

In 2017, farms in the Mid North Coast of NSW had the highest levels of factory reject due to insect damage. Fruitspotting bug was the most significant pest limiting production, accounting for 43 per cent of rejection, followed by macadamia seed weevil (33%), lace bug (7%) and rats (7%). Major diseases reported by benchmark participants as limiting production in the 2017 season included phytophthora (50%) followed by flower diseases (27%) and husk spot (17%).

Preliminary economic assessment of IPM trial data has begun, with assessments so far based on yield and kernel recovery. Once the costs of trials are known, the team will calculate the economic viability of IPM strategies.

Sub-project MC16006, being delivered by IPM Technologies

This component of the IPM research has provided a second year of leadership and expert advice on the delivery of IPM extension to encourage use of the approach to managing pests.

An additional series of four workshops on IPM techniques were held in two major growing regions, each attended by a consultant and several of their growers and crop scouts. Growers were included as well as consultants to plan IPM strategies specific to their farms, with a view to further encouraging practice change.  Back-up extension support and advice on IPM program was also provided.

The work has allowed the development of IPM strategies suitable for four different growing regions, which will form the basis for IPM extension in the future. 

Sub-project MC16007, being delivered by the University of the Sunshine Coast

 This sub-project, looking at which compounds and odours present in nuts are attractive to insects, has investigated another key fatty acid, palmitoleic acid. The team set out to establish how attractive the acid, in pure form and as the less expensive sea buckthorn oil, is to macadamia seed weevil.

The fatty acid was effective as an attractant in the lab, so field trials will be set up to test it, and other substances, in orchards, with a view to using it in traps for the insect.

Sub-project MC16008, being delivered by BioResources

Researchers have now gathered two years of data in their assessment of how making changes to inter-row management can influence the presence and diversity of beneficial insects in the orchard.

Early results show that while there is a lot of variation across sites, there has consistently been higher insect diversity in the less mow treatments. The timing of the mowing is likely to have an impact on insect populations.

Look for recommendations and resources as this component of the program progresses.

ACT NOW

While the sub-projects are all closely related and feeding into each other to form a holistic program, in this Hortlink we’re breaking it down and providing an overview of what each element is tasked with, along with any recently available updates from the sub-project teams. There is also an overarching coordination component delivered through MC16003.

Sub-project MC16004, being delivered by the NSW Department of Primary Industries

In each of four major growing areas (the New South Wales mid-north coast, Northern Rivers, Gympie/Glasshouse Mountains and Bundaberg), this component of the IPM program has established two trial blocks on grower properties. These trials are comparing and contrasting orchard management with an IPM approach, using IPM-compatible chemicals, biological controls and cultural controls, with the standard/conventional approach to pest management of using broad-spectrum insecticides. Each of the trials involves a crop consultant working with the grower and NSW DPI to implement.

The first round of monitoring of the sites was conducted between July 2017 and March 2018, with the results currently being analysed. The project team report that preliminary data from the visual observations indicates subtle differences between standard and IPM treatments. Generally, standard treatment blocks appeared to have a higher occurrence of thrips and in the IPM blocks, a higher diversity of beneficials has been observed.

This sub-project is also conducting field trials assessing treatment plans at the Centre for Tropical Horticulture in Alstonville in northern New South Wales, including two different standard treatment rotations with broad-spectrum insecticides and two different IPM treatment rotations. Monitoring has been completed for the 2017/18 season, with analysis currently underway. A further component of this work involves screening trials for chemical efficacy against macadamia lace bug.

Learnings from this sub-project will feed into other components of the IPM program and be shared with industry as available.

Sub-project MC16005, being delivered by the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

This sub-project has three areas of work:

  • Identifying and culturing ‘entomopathogenic’ fungi – fungi that have evolved to infect and kill or debilitate insects – for assessment as protectants against insect pests. Here, the overarching program hopes to develop a biological spray for management of Sigastus weevil.
  • Work related to the assessment, optimisation and practical application of available pheromone insect traps. Here, trials have been underway to test the performance of recently available commercial banana spotting bug pheromone traps in Gympie, Bundaberg and Walkamin.
  • Industry benchmarking and economic analysis. Information from the industry benchmarking project (MC15005) related to factory reject data is being analysed to identify insect damage trends by season, region, tree age and farm size, with results being reported into the IPM program’s entomologist to help guide IPM programs and inform discussions with growers, consultants and processors. This sub-project will also undertake economic analysis as the program progresses, to help growers understand the economic viability of IPM strategies.

Sub-project MC16006, being delivered by IPM Technologies

This component of the IPM program feeds expert advice into the sub-projects and back to the macadamia industry.

Earlier in the project, IPM Technologies conducted a series of workshops bringing together growers from each of the key production regions to discuss current practices and experiences in pest management. This information was paired with the sub-project team’s experience in developing IPM practices and knowledge of pest management options, to create IPM strategies for the four different regions where on-farm trials are taking place.

The sub-project team is now working to assist selected growers trial these practices during the coming seasons. To register interest in being involved in these trials, contact IPM Technologies at info@ipmtechnologies.com.au.

This component of work also has a focus on ensuring local advisors and extension personnel are equipped with skills and knowledge around IPM techniques and IPM extension.

Sub-project MC16007, being delivered by The University of the Sunshine Coast

This sub-project is looking at how insects respond to compounds and odours of interest that are being identified in the course of the other sub-projects. The aim is to identify and understand attractants that will improve monitoring and control of pests.

There is an initial focus on Sigastus weevil, which causes significant early nut drop.

In order to understand what volatile cues may be used by the weevils to find immature nuts, the project team have examined adult behavioural responses to key fatty acids in macadamia, which vary in concentration as nuts mature. The researchers report that weevils significantly avoid the odour of oleic acid, the level of which is higher in mature nuts, but are attracted to myristic acid, which is higher in immature nuts.

“A kairomone lure based on the volatile chemistry of immature macadamia nuts is the most promising system for trapping over-wintering adult weevils, before populations increase as new nuts form,” the researchers note.

Sub-project MC16008, being delivered by BioResources

Beneficial insects are a large component of an effective IPM program, and this sub-project is looking at how making changes to inter-row management can influence their presence and diversity in the orchard. The researchers are comparing a number of changes in inter-row cultivation practices with the conventional approach of regular, close mowing. These changes in inter-row practices will include…

  • Different approaches to mowing, from reducing mowing and alternate row mowing to half-row or partial mowing

  • Disturbing the soil to break up grass dominance and allow germination of the soil seed bank, including naturalised ‘weeds’

  • Seeding with specific insect-friendly species.

The first season of work is now complete, with trials taking place on-farm across growing regions. As well as monitoring, documenting and assessing beneficials, the project team report that they have been working with growers to identify potentially troublesome weeds occurring in the inter-row and developing IPM-friendly responses; discussing the use of ideal cover crops to develop recommendations for the industry; and assessing the pros and cons of alternative-row mowing.

Look for recommendations and resources as this component of the program progresses.

The below project update has been provided to Hort Innovation from the IPM program coordinator…

In late 2016, this program was begun to assist growers in implementing IPM in orchards.  While a large part of the industry was already supportive of IPM, the pressures of developing independent solutions meant the tools to implement effective IPM were often absent, or provided insufficient surety to allow growers to use them. The current IPM program is aimed squarely at looking at the bigger picture of pest management in the orchard, and providing understanding of the why, when and how of pest management.

Current trials reflect that holistic view. Part of that approach has seen the development of on-farm trials in four production regions (New South Wales mid-north coast, Northern Rivers, Glasshouse Mountains and Bundaberg) to compare and contrast ‘conventional’ pest control with a more integrated approach. Each of these trials involves a crop consultant working with the grower and the NSW DPI to implement.

Supporting those trials has been a series of workshops conducted by IPM Technologies. In those workshops, growers from each of the production regions discussed all their current practices and experiences in pest management. IPM Technologies took that information and, using their experience in developing IPM practice and their broad knowledge of pest management options, have developed a table of integrated low-impact practices. IPM Technologies will be working to assist selected growers trial these practices during the coming seasons. To register interest in being involved in these trials, contact IPM Technologies at info@ipmtechnologies.com.au.

In a separate trial, a progression from use of broad spectrum pesticides to soft options is being examined by the NSW DPI.

Of course, the key to an IPM approach is knowledge of what is happening in the orchard.  Understanding the life cycle and ecology of a pest allows you to target control at the correct time and in the most effective manner. A good example of this is the new Sigastus fact sheet that has been released as part of the program. The fact sheet provides growers with information on life cycle and monitoring that allows effective, timely spraying of the pest and potentially reduces the number of sprays used by two events. The project team behind it is also working on better understanding of the ecology of some other key macadamia pests, and a PhD student has just started whose focus will be on pest ecology in a macadamia orchard.

Monitoring is key in that Sigastus approach, as it should be for other pests.  To assist in monitoring, the program is attempting to find an attractant for Sigastus to improve monitoring and control. Work is also continuing to develop monitoring of fruit spotting bug.

Beneficials are a large component of an effective IPM program and BioResources is building understanding of what is happening in the orchard through an inter-row trial.  In this trial the project team is comparing what is happening with a mown inter-row to what is happening in an inter-row that is allowed to have vegetation grow. The focus of this component of the program is understanding what impact the different approaches have on insect diversity and the ability to foster beneficial organisms. Again, this research is spread across growing regions and conducted on-farm.  Already a large database of insects found in the trials has been developed.

Finally, work is also continuing on developing a biological spray for management of Sigastus.  Isolates of fungal pathogens of Sigastus are being tested for efficacy against the pest, with the hope that a biological spray can be developed.

The current program is 12 months into its five-year run.

ACT NOW

  • Check out the spring 2017 edition of the levy-funded News Bulletin, which includes a range of information on the program, including spreads on Sigastus (from p24) and information on inter-row management and beneficials (p61)
  • In relation to the inter-row work, the program has produced a review of ‘insectaries’ used in horticulture, and advice on cover-cropping for macadamia – check it out here
  • Developments from the program will be reported at future MacGroup events – watch out for these in industry channels and on the AMS website here
  • Register your interest in taking part in on-farm IPM activity with IPM Technologies, as described above, at info@ipmtechnologies.com.au.

Hort Innovation continues to strengthen the IPM program for the macadamia industry, with a varying body of work now underway. Some of the key areas the interrelated projects are working on include…

  • How inter-row vegetation management can influence the presence of beneficial insects in macadamia orchards. Ten field trial sites have been established for this work, and are seeing how a number of practices compare to conventional regular, close mowing between rows. These practices include reduced mowing, alternative row mowing, half-row/partial mowing, seeding with insect-friendly species, and the use of naturalised ‘weeds’. A database of insects found in the inter-row has now been established, and will be a resource in understanding beneficial populations in the orchard.
  • Various field trials, testing combinations of IPM tools across the orchard. These trials have been established in each of Australia’s macadamia growing regions, with one conventional and one IPM site in each.

  • How insects respond to compounds and odours of interest, with an initial focus on Sigastus weevil. Here, laboratory work will ensure that field trials ultimately involve compounds pests detect and are attracted to.
  • Growing knowledge of key macadamia pests, as well as beneficials. This will include undertaking field and lab studies on their basic lifecycle, ecology and biology, and result in the development of pest identification and management guides (the latter with an initial focus on Sigastus weevil).
  • Establishing and maintaining laboratory colonies of pests and biological control agents for use across the program’s work, including behavioural studies investigating pest preferences in relation to food, shapes and colours – with the first work again taking place in relation to Sigastus.

  • Working with local advisors, pest consultants and industry development officers to develop and deliver extension activities around the project (to be communicated in industry channels as the program progresses). A series of workshops have now been held across the growing regions to help identify IPM practices for potential inclusion in a recommended IPM program.