Australia: New tool helps grain growers preserve beneficial insects on-farm

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05 May 2022, AU: A critical new tool will help Australian grain growers understand what pesticides to select to preserve ‘beneficial’ insects that play a critical role in pest management in the paddock.

Pesticides are a key tool for controlling insect pests in grain crops and effectively protect yield and grain quality. However, some chemicals have the potential to harm beneficial insects, such as predators and parasitoids, which have an important role in Integrated Pest Management (IPM).

Different pesticides have different impacts, which has made it challenging for growers to know what chemistry they should use on-farm to preserve these beneficial insects.

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The cotton and horticultural industries have guides outlining how commonly used insecticides and miticides can affect beneficial insects, allowing growers to make informed choices about chemical selection.

Now, for the first time, Australian grain growers can use a chemical toxicity table for beneficial insects to guide their on-farm decision making.

This new toxicity table outlines the impacts of commonly used pesticides in Australian grains on key groups of beneficial insects that have the potential to control pests naturally.

The tool was developed using research by Cesar Australia, in collaboration with the University of Melbourne and supported by investment from the Grains Research and Development Corporation as part of the Australian Grains Pest Innovation Program (AGPIP).

Cesar Australia researcher, Dr Robert McDougall said pesticides were a key tool for conventional pest management in grain crops, however growers were increasingly conscious of minimising chemical use and conserving natural enemies of pests.

“The table that has been developed as a result of this research will equip growers with the information to make choices about pesticides that protects beneficial insects,” Dr McDougall said.

The table explains the toxicity of 19 commonly used chemicals on a range of beneficial insects, making it easier for growers to select chemicals with the lowest overall impact on beneficial insects.

“This information is the product of more than two years of research, with extensive laboratory trials determining the toxicity of chemicals against tens of thousands of individual insects, based on best practice protocols developed by the International Organisation for Biological Control,” Dr McDougall said.

He said he hoped the tools developed as part of this research would help growers in their endeavours to become more sustainable, and ultimately improve farm profits.

“When growers can make more informed choices about the chemicals they use, it’s a win for everyone. The environment benefits from reduced pesticide use and growers can potentially save money by allowing beneficial insects to provide some pest control services free of charge and reduce spray costs.”

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