Don’t wait for the insect crisis

Don’t wait for an insect crisis to make changes to your pest management strategy. This was the key message from the BCG FMC Integrated Pest Management workshop held at Birchip on Thursday the 11th of March.

Leading Australian Entomologists Dr Paul Horne and Jessica Page facilitated the discussion on the day with the aim of starting the shift from broad-spectrum insecticides being the first choice in controlling pests, to integrating a strategic approach where the use of chemistry is the third option.

Dr Horne and Ms Page worked through each crop with attendees and explained other alternatives to broad-spectrum insecticides. “Using chemical to control should be last option. The first is biological – ensuring that beneficial insects are given the opportunity to survive, then cultural – such as crop rotations, good summer weed management and variety selection and then selective chemical such as seed dressings and chemistry such as Dipel (bacterial chemistry) and Vivus (virus-based chemistry) to protect beneficial insects,” Dr Horne said.

Dr Horne shared a variety of examples throughout a range of industries where the use of broad-spectrum insecticides has eventually left industries with little to no option which in some cases has resulted in up to 100 per cent loss.

“The normal approach when there is a pest causing damage, is to increase rates and the number of applications of broad-spectrum insecticides. This creates a snowball effect where it kills one pest but then allows another, usually more damaging pest to develop in numbers and with no beneficials left to fight it, this pest becomes the new problem. With consequent broad-spectrum sprays to control the new pest, this can escalate to the point where the pest in the end is far worse than what was first being managed and it is without the management options.”

“When there is nothing left it’s really hard. We don’t want growers to get to this stage – to crisis point – before they decide to change,” Dr Horne said.

Dr Horne went on to explain how strawberry growers in the Yarra Valley have faced such an insect crisis and how they were able to resolve it through IPM strategies. “Now all strawberry growers in the Yarra Vallee and whole of Tasmania strawberry use IPM.”


When questioned about the costs associated with such selective insecticides and controls the answer was clear: growers need to look at the broader picture with broad spectrum insecticides cheaper in the short term but the problems they can create eventually causing the industry far greater costs long term.

Cultural shift

Ms Page said that it was about getting growers to think about their management practices differently, for example: checking paddocks the spring before sowing and factoring in the insects present into the following year’s sowing program and moving away from spraying ‘just in case’.

“If we keep the beneficials in the paddock these can do a lot of the work for us,” Ms Page said. “We are not saying don’t spray, just be more selective and start planning earlier.”

Dr Horne followed “This can be more cost-effective long term.”

Attendees will be involved in the project over three years with Dr Horne and Ms Page working closely with them to implement IPM on at least one paddock on their farm.

“You can certainly see a benefit from just one paddock. More is great and if your neighbours are doing it too even better, but one paddock is enough to see results,” Dr Horne finished.

Become involved

Interested growers who were unable to attend the workshop are invited to contact BCG to be part of the project.

“Through this workshop the growers in attendance were given confidence that they already had some good IPM strategies in place,” Kent Hair from FMC said.

“Going through the process with Paul and Jessica identified a few areas – either biological, cultural or chemical – where attendees could further develop their IPM strategies moving forward.”

For more information or to become involved call BCG’s Tom Draffen on 0418 304 695.

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