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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, 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. 

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.


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.


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.


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.