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Ongoing project

An IPM extension program for the potato and onion industries (MT16009)

Key research provider: IPM Technologies

What’s it all about?

This project for and funded by the onion and potato growing and processing industries has a focus on integrated pest management (IPM). Its core activities are to support growers in adopting IPM on farm – improving pest management with minimal pesticide use and a reduction in associated costs. This includes the delivery of workshops, the use of demonstration sites with commercial crops, and the production of materials such as articles, guides and case studies distributed in industry channels.

Look for opportunities to attend information sessions and demonstrations, with details circulated in industry channels as they become available.

If you’re interested in trialling IPM, through this investment telephone and email support is offered to growers wanting to use the approach, which can include advice on pest management decisions week-by-week. Learn more here, email the project team at info@ipmtechnologies.com.au, or call Dr Paul Horne on 0419 891 575.

The project is also responsible for training advisors from Australia’s major onion and potato growing regions in IPM, and with the threat of tomato potato psyllid, additional funding from the potato growing and processing industries is used specifically for activities related to the pest. 

Now in its third year, this project has continued to demonstrate integrated pest management (IPM) practices in potato and onion crops in South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania. Key highlights have included:

  • In early 2020 site demonstrations and training in IPM techniques were delivered through workshops, seminars and direct discussions. The key achievement being long-term growers developing new strategies to control pests with little or no reliance on chemical treatments. The demonstrations and training were well received by participants and has led to strong adoption of IPM by the growers and advisors involved.
  • Check-ups and field visits are continuing throughout 2020 to see different stages of the crops and how decisions on pest management are made using an IPM approach. So far this has involved looking at key pest levels, then assessing biological control agents and considering what cultural controls had either been put in place or could be considered. Check-ups will be ongoing on these sites throughout 2020 however, due to the impacts of COVID-19 visits may be conducted online instead.
  • Ongoing support was delivered to collaborators from years one and two, with assistance provided in relation to decision-making, selection and use of insecticides for various pests.
  • As a result of their involvement in the potato component of the project, Simplot in Tasmania has trialed IPM in their brassica crops as well as potato crops this season (2019 – 2020).
  • A training workshop specifically for seed inspectors is planned for 2020 and some in-field training has already commenced.
  • Regions and collaborators for the fourth year of the project have been identified with the next likely groups for training and demonstrations being growers and advisors in Queensland and NSW later this year.
  • IPM strategies have been developed for both potatoes and onions at locations in all states, including Tasmania, SA, QLD and NSW.

ACT NOW

To access specific IPM strategies for Australian states and locations, contact paul@ipmtechnologies.com.au for tailored IPM guides.

See an article about this project and grower experience in the annual Onions Australia magazine (2019 issue, p10) which tells the story of an onion grower in SA who trialed IPM in year one and who has extended the approach to the entire farm last season (year three).

An article was also written for The Onion Project 2019 Annual Magazine, (on pages 14 and 15) demonstrating the use of IPM in onions.

The project team continues to raise awareness and increase adoption of integrated pest management (IPM) in potato and onion crops across southern Australia, primarily in South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania.

In addition to assisting farmers directly, the team have been training field officers from major processors, major reseller agronomy companies and independent advisors with the aim for IPM to become a mainstream pest control option.

In recent months, further support was provided to those already engaged with the project, and development activities with other growers and advisors was undertaken. This included IPM techniques training that was delivered through workshops, seminars and direct discussions.

All demonstration sites continued in commercial crops, including seed, processing and fresh market crops. In most cases, demonstrations were conducted with a farmer and one or more advisors including reseller agronomists, independent advisors and field officers. 

The project team also shared several articles about the project in relevant industry publications which are available below.

ACT NOW

Read articles about the project and its successful implementation in onions that were shared with industry:

  • IPM now the way for Dolling Produce, published on page 10 of Volume 36 of Onions Australia magazine, describes the changes made by Dolling Produce in the way they manage onion pests due to this project
  • Demonstrations of IPM in Onions, published in the Onion Project 2019 Annual Magazine on pages 14-15, provides an overview and update on project progress

There were also several articles published in potato industry magazines during the previous reporting period:

The team has continued to demonstrate integrated pest management (IPM) in potato and onion crops across southern Australia (WA, SA, Victoria and Tasmania) into a second year.  All demonstration sites were in commercial crops, and included seed crops, processing crops and fresh market crops. In most cases the demonstrations were conducted with a farmer and one or more advisors.

Training in IPM was given at each site, often focusing on decision-making and the selection and use of insecticides, and whether any was required at all.  The project has so far visited more regions than planned at this stage and so is ahead of schedule.

All demonstrations and training were well received by participants and has led to strong adoption of IPM by growers and advisors. One onion grower in SA who conducted a small trial using IPM in the first year now intends to use it farm-wide in the coming season.

The team provides ongoing support to collaborating growers and agronomists, including those from year one to assist them in achieving ongoing success with IPM.

ACT NOW

In the second year of the project, workshops, talks and other training explaining the role of integrated pest management (IPM) in potato and onion crops continued in major growing regions of Western Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Queensland. These events were attended by growers and advisors, and in each instance these discussions helped to assist the project team in their development of IPM strategies specific to each region.

These strategies provide the basis for extension via field demonstrations that have commenced throughout the country for different planting and harvest times. Growers and advisors can obtain a full picture of how to grow a crop using IPM strategies through these demonstrations as they span the whole lifecycle of a crop. You can find out more information on when these events take place here.

In Queensland, field demonstrations in Gatton and Lockyer Valley have taken place, with sites established on five farms where the usual approach to pest management was multiple applications of broad-spectrum insecticide.  After using IPM strategies, the results showed a significant reduction in insecticide use, with potato growers successfully growing their crops with a total of zero or one application rather than the average of seven used over the season prior to the trials. Similarly, onion growers used to spraying insecticides every 10 days were able to reduce their application to one or none during the crop cycle. Both growers and advisors reported that they were impressed with the significant change that was achieved.

At the time of writing, field demonstrations in Australia’s southern regions had just commenced. The project team note that although growers in these regions do not typically use insecticides as much as those in Queensland, there is still scope to improve management and demonstrate the role of biological and cultural controls.

Continued support is available upon request to growers and advisors interested or involved in the project. The project team has predominantly received queries about pest management from growers involved in the first year of trials, demonstrating that they have taken the positive trial results seriously and have begun to explore how to practically apply IPM on a larger scale. Support has also been given to reseller agronomists, suggesting that the project is proving successful as strategies shift to IPM rather than simple insecticide-based management.

ACT NOW

Read the article How to improve control of onion thrips with fewer insectides on pages 10-11 of the 2018 edition of the Onions Australia magazine

In the project to date, the team has delivered workshops and talks about IPM in both the onion and potato industries across South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania, New South Wales and Queensland. Initial workshops in specific growing regions have introduced the concept of IPM and developed strategies for those regions in partnership with industry. This will be the case for new regions visited during the course of the investment’s second year – keep an eye out for opportunities in industry communication channels.

From these initial workshops the project has and will continue to work with growers and industry advisors keen to trial IPM strategies in commercial crops – leading to the establishment of demonstration sites for further extension and learning opportunities. For the 2017/18 season, 25 were established amounting to 395 hectares of onions and 1416 hectares of potatoes being produced using an IPM approach. At the time of writing, demonstrations at these sites had been conducted for the wider industry in all major onion and potato production regions of South Australia, and the Portland and Ballarat districts of Victoria. Again, look for opportunities in industry channels as they arise.

For those participating growers and advisors, the project team offer dedicated field training sessions and then ongoing support via phone, email and text messages. The training programs delivered so far have focused on monitoring techniques and identification of both pest and beneficial species in various lifecycle stages; the effective use of cultural control options; how to assess whether or not an insecticide application is necessary (based on the trends in monitoring results from week to week); and how to integrate insecticides in an IPM program when necessary.

The project team report that so far, all onion growers and advisors who have attended initial workshops have gone on to trial IPM on their farms – many using the approach for the first time, and for some this has meant using no insecticides at all. “All participants – growers and collaborating advisors – have agreed that the IPM approach produced equal or better results than their usual, insecticide-based approach. Slightly different methods were used on each farm to encourage beneficial insects and mites to control pest invertebrates, but all were successful,” the team note.

ACT NOW

With the project’s first year drawing to a close, the concept of IPM in onion and potato crops has been brought to both growers and advisors in South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania and New South Wales. In areas across these states, initial workshops have been run to outline IPM principles, with feedback collected at these events feeding into the development of on-farm demonstrations.

Subsequently, on-farm demonstration trials have commenced in onion and potato crops at 25 sites in South Australia, amounting to 395 hectares of onions and 940 hectares of potatoes being produced using an IPM approach with support from this project so far. Yet more demonstration sites for the 2017/18 season are due to be established as crops emerge in the south east of South Australia and in Victoria.

Visits by IPM Technologies entomologists to demonstration trials have shown participating growers and advisors the range of beneficial insects and mites of importance and highlighted the value of cultural control options. Regular contact with project participants (both face-to-face during field visits, and via phone and email) is allowing the project team to demonstrate how decisions can be made on insecticide selection and use (or the decision to not use an insecticide).

The first growers involved in the project have now grown onion and potato crops using IPM for the first time, and for some this has meant growing their crops without any insecticides at all. The project team reports that these growers have seen the theory put into practice on their own farms, and are adopting IPM on all their potato or onion crops going forward.

The IPM Technologies team also report that participating advisors have seen the value in using IPM and there has been a significant change in the type of advice being given by these advisors, who have ceased recommending routine, broad-spectrum insecticides and are now promoting IPM. They suggest that the project is having a noticeable influence in facilitating widespread adoption of IPM in the regions where extension activities have been targeted to date, and work is continuing towards making IPM a standard method of dealing with pests of onions and potatoes.

Still in its early stages, the project has achieved the following:

  • Facilitated three IPM introduction and training workshops for South Australian potato and onion growers and advisors.
  • Held tomato potato psyllid-specific training sessions for industry advisors.
  • Begun the process for establishing on-farm demonstration sites.