Home > Vegie Growers Begin to Win DBM Fight with New Crop Protection Programme from DuPont

Vegie Growers Begin to Win DBM Fight with New Crop Protection Programme from DuPont

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A few years ago, the vegetable growers in Queensland's Lockyer Valley were ready to admit that diamondback moth (DBM) had them licked.

After years of using pyrethroids and organophosphates to control their number one pest, chemical resistance had set in and there were no alternatives.

The cost was countless losses in fresh produce – particularly cabbages, broccoli and cauliflowers, the DBM's staple food.

That was until the advent of a group of new generation insecticides designed to target specific pests, while having little impact on the natural predators of those pests came on the market.

Agrochemical companies, including DuPont , responded to growers' needs by producing products and crop protection programmes which would step in where the traditional chemicals no longer worked.

In a further boon for growers, each of the new chemicals had a different mode of action, enabling them to be interchanged to prolong their useful life and avoid resistance from setting in.

Andrew Johanson is an agronomist and field coordinator for the prominent Lockyer Valley fresh produce group, the Mulgowie Farming Company.

He advises around 40 growers – from planting through to harvest – on how to get the best quality produce for both export customers and lucrative domestic customers such as Woolworths.

He is also heavily involved in ensuring integrated pest management (IPM) strategies are implemented across Mulgowie's farms.

Andrew said DBM had long been the bane of growers' lives, but things became even more frustrating when the traditional methods of chemical attack proved innocuous.

"As little as four or five years ago we just couldn’t control them (DBM) at all with what we had," Andrew said.

The traditional method of attack had been to use broad-spectrum insecticides such as organophosphates and synthetic pyrethroids.

"They were all heavy chemicals and they took out all your beneficials," Andrew said.

"And in the Lockyer Valley we had total resistance to those products. They were being over-used and constantly used instead of being rotated."

However, during the past few seasons the DBM menace has subsided a little, due in part, Andrew believes, to a range of new mode-of -action products.

"We've had so many new chemical groups come in and we've been able to use them in our strategy – we've really knocked the numbers down," Andrew said.

"Chemical companies are coming up with softer chemicals that are kind to beneficials. There's about five whole new chemical groups now – so that's just a huge step forward for IPM."

The latest of the new-generation insecticides to be registered for use on brassica vegetables in Australia is Avatar by DuPont.

Andrew's growers began using Avatar this season on their broccoli and cauliflower crops and he is impressed with the results.

Avatar has also proven its worth in controlling heliothis, another of the caterpillar pests.

Avatar fits easily into the Lockyer Valley's "window strategy" developed over the past 15 years by consultation with individual growers, grower bodies such as the Brassica Improvement Group, chemical companies, researchers and government.

"With the window resistance strategy we have Avatar slotted in for part of the season," Andrew said.

"This has been very successful and we've seen DBM that was uncontrollable with synthetic pyrethroids and organophosphates as little as four years ago dwindle down to very low pressure this year when some crops haven't been sprayed at all.

"Having soft chemicals in an IPM strategy is the key to managing pests while ensuring that you keep maximum numbers of beneficials to continue working for you. Avatar is very kind to beneficial wasps and insects but is very effective against DBM and heliothis."

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