Grains Research and Development

Date: 08.03.2016

Recognition for Grahams untiring crusade against snails

Author: Sharon Watt

With a jar of snails in hand, Graham Hayes (left) receives his GRDC Recognising and Rewarding Excellence Award from GRDC Southern Regional Panel member Bill Long.

Known throughout Australia and around the world as a leading authority on the management of exotic snails in farming systems, Graham Hayes has now been officially recognised for his outstanding contribution to the nation’s grains industry.

The South Australian grain grower has been presented with a Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Recognising and Rewarding Excellence Award.

My Hayes, who was nominated for the award by the GRDC Southern Regional Panel, has dedicated much of his working life to assisting scientists and being involved in research programs aimed at developing a greater understanding of snail behaviour and lifecycle, as well as management methods.

Mr Hayes and his family (wife Raelene, son Chris and daughter-in-law Simone) farm at Warooka and Honiton on southern Yorke Peninsula, which is considered to be the global epicentre of pest snails in agriculture.

Having to deal with four introduced species of snail which thrive in the region’s mild Mediterranean climate, Mr Hayes has been on a lengthy crusade to combat the pests which arrived on YP from European origins more than a century ago.

Snails cause substantial economic losses through yield loss from feeding damage, field control costs, additional harvest costs, grain value loss, receival rejection and they can potentially threaten market access.

Mr Hayes is only too familiar with the impact. He has had significant amounts of grain rejected and in one year alone (1999), he incurred production losses of $143,000.

Snails have been a major problem for the Hayes family since the late 1980s – a consequence of a move to no-till farming about 33 years ago. Continuous cultivation previously destroyed snail eggs, but the benefits of no-till and stubble retention in terms of soil quality and productivity far outweigh the drawback of snails, according to Mr Hayes.

“Snails are now just part of our life – we have to deal with them,” Mr Hayes said. “I’m determined to do everything possible to control them.”

Over the decades, he has worked enthusiastically with the GRDC and research organisations such as the SA Research and Development Institute and Charles Sturt University to build knowledge and devise management tactics.

He was instrumental in the production of the GRDC-supported Bash ’Em Burn ’Em Bait ’Em integrated snail management publication, has hosted various trials on his property (including the release of parasitic nematodes and flies and the use of video cameras), provides snail samples for research and has numerous people from around the world visit him and contact him seeking advice.

“I even had an orchardist from the Greek island of Rhodes contact me asking for help as he’d been over-run with conical snails. He’s in Europe where the snails originate from but there is more information available in Australia on snail control than there is in Europe.”

Mr Hayes has regularly spoken at GRDC Updates and has appeared in videos and on television programs, raising awareness of the problem and highlighting the need for ongoing research.

His vast experience in dealing with snails and his commitment to overcoming their impact has led to Mr Hayes establishing an effective baiting regime based on the latest research-borne knowledge around the importance of bait timing and the use of equipment (including a locally-made crusher) which eliminates snails from the grain.

“In 1999, all our grain was rejected; we were going out of business and thought we couldn’t continue because of the snails. But we managed to turn things around,” Mr Hayes said.

“As a result of working with entomologists and from practical experience over many years, the harvest we have just had was one of our best ever. We were able to deliver 1040 tonnes of canola straight to the silo without any rejection. We can now deliver canola free of snails and free of damage to the oilseed.”

GRDC Southern Regional Panel member Bill Long, of Ardrossan in SA, presented Mr Hayes with the award, stating that when he moved to YP about 20 years ago as an agricultural consultant, Mr Hayes was one of the first people he was told to contact regarding management of snails.

“Through lots of projects that started 20 years ago with the formation of the YP Alkaline Soils Group, Graham has been at the forefront of research into snails,” Mr Long said. “He’s been an absolute leader in giving direction to farming systems groups and the research community about what needs to be done in terms of snail control.

“His contribution has been huge, not only to this region but also more broadly to Australia’s southern and western cropping regions where snails have become a severe problem.

“It is a great pleasure of mine to recognise Graham through this award, which is not presented all that regularly. On most occasions these awards go to researchers – this is one of the few times the award has gone to a grower.

“It not only recognises Graham’s willingness over many years to share his experiences with local farmers and researchers, but it also pays tribute to his willingness to travel extensively right across Australia to educate people who are experiencing problems with snails for the first time.”

Mr Long said Australia now leads the world in understanding snail biology and control methods, thanks to GRDC-supported research efforts involving dedicated scientists and “people like Graham” who have shown that snail-infested land can be farmed successfully.

Mr Hayes received $25,000 as part of his award which he will use to continue his crusade against snails:  “The one thing we are aiming for, fighting for, is to break the lifecycle of snails. That is the ultimate goal,” he said.

For Interviews

Graham Hayes, Warooka
0408 545 132

Contact

Sharon Watt, Porter Novelli
0409 675 100

Region South