Basic research paying off
By next year growers and consultants may have access to a wide range of information related to managing the pest heliothis (also known as Helicoverpa, cotton bollworm and native bud worm) which annually causes growers million-dollar losses.
That's the pledge from a team at the Cooperative Research Centre for Tropical Pest Management (CTPM). The team is developing a Helicoverpa Forecasting and Information Service to help growers control the pest with good advance information.
With additional financial support, the forecasting system should be up and running by July 1998. Growers will be able to ask for reference material, latest news and forecasts. Forecasts will include long-range predictions of abundance, nightly warnings of immigration into particular regions, and tables of predicted development times.
Expected annual loss in Australia due to heliothis Ecologist Wayne Rochester, who developed the forecasting system, said it analyses weather data, satellite images and field observations, and "incorporates the understanding of heliothis biology that we have gained from many years of research". Growers through the GRDC have supported the basic work of understanding how heliothis operates.
The forecasting system is being tested by consultants and extension scientists in a variety of crops and regions. The crops include navy beans in the South Burnett and field peas in Victoria.
Analysis by CTPM resource economist David Adamson indicates the service could significantly benefit regions and commodities.
Three-year trial free to growers
If all goes as planned, a three-year operational trial will answer the question of how much the system benefits individual growers. During the trial, information and forecasts will be made freely available to growers, consultants and others involved in heliothis management. The information will be distributed by rural newspapers, fax and the World Wide Web.
Forecasts now being tested include a prediction of H. punctigera pressure during spring, and nightly warnings of moth immigration into areas such as the field pea growing region of northwestern Victoria.
For now, trial forecasts can be viewed on the web (at http://fassbinder.ento.ctpm.uq.edu.au/).
The heliothis forecasting project is a collaborative effort of the CRC for Tropical Pest Management, CSIRO, QPDI, the University of New England and the University of Queensland.
Contact: Wayne Rochester 07 3365 1896