Global Agriculture

Samples sought to understand Rutherglen bug dynamics

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10 October 2022, AU: Grain growers and agronomists in Western Australia are being encouraged to report sightings of Rutherglen bug (RGB) or register to submit samples of the insect to better inform future pest management strategies.

Rutherglen bug is a migratory native species that causes occasional but significant damage to the grains industry. Impacted grain crops include sunflower, sorghum, canola, and safflower. In years of significant RGB populations, pulses and cereals may also be affected.

The call-out is part of an investment by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, in collaboration with the University of Queensland and New South Wales Department of Primary Industries.

The investment, which commenced in 2021, will help researchers understand how populations of RGB persist in the local environment and why they might suddenly appear in crops.

It will also update management guidelines to minimise the effects of early- and late-season infestations and provide a risk framework to predict likely infestation from both locally emerged and migratory populations.

CSIRO Senior Research Scientist Hazel Parry says very little is known about the landscape ecology of Rutherglen bug besides that they can be found on a wide variety of plant hosts, including many weed species. GRDC is investing in research to help fill the information gaps.

“Growers and agronomists have the option to provide up to two kinds of information to aid in this research,” she says.

“They can register Rutherglen bug sightings online as part of our current ‘citizen science’ data collection initiative and they can also register to receive a sampling kit to help us collect Rutherglen bugs for DNA analysis.

“Reporting sightings will deliver valuable information which will help the project team to determine the conditions that might be associated with Rutherglen bug flights.

“The actual samples will give us an insight on where the Rutherglen bugs are coming from within the landscape and how related the populations are, particularly in terms of whether they are traveling long distances or if they are local populations.”

GRDC Manager Pests, Leigh Nelson, says that after beginning with a focus on New South Wales and Queensland, the project was seeking to obtain reports and samples from other jurisdictions.

“Issues with Rutherglen bug were raised at a recent GRDC Western Panel meeting, so the issue is front-of-mind for growers and agronomists in WA.

“By better understanding when Rutherglen bugs move and how they survive, we may be able to interrupt those patterns and reduce the reliance on in-crop control methods.”

Growers and advisers can register a Rutherglen bug sighting, or sign up for a sampling kit via the CSIRO website.

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