Russian wheat aphids move north: tune in to hear the risk

Author: | Date: 24 Oct 2018

image of Russian wheat aphid
Russian Wheat Aphid has been confirmed in a wheat crop in northern NSW, prompting the GRDC to release a new podcast offering information about the pest. Photo GRDC.

Russian wheat aphid has been confirmed in northern New South Wales, more than 400km north of previous detection site, prompting the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) to release a podcast offering grain growers and advisers insight into the identification, behaviour and management of the pest.

The NSW Department of Primary Industry (DPI) confirmed the discovery of RWA in a wheat crop in the Coonabarabran region, on the border of the Central West and North West Slopes and Plains last week.

Prior to this detection, the most northern point where RWA had been detected was Lake Cargelligo, 400km further south.

Incidences of Russian wheat aphid (RWA) in south eastern Australian cereal crops this season have been low, according to data collected as a part of the new GRDC investment ‘Russian wheat aphid risk assessment and regional thresholds’.

The data has been collected by the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), a division of Primary Industries and Regions SA via fifteen trial sites set up in SA, Victoria, Tasmania, and NSW.

During spring and summer research organisation cesar will undertakefurther monitoring for RWA to assess risks posed by green bridges for supporting aphid populations. One aim of the current GRDC investment is development of economic thresholds in local settings.

Dr Paul Umina, a nationally recognised entomologist and director of cesar, speaks about the status of RWA in Australia as this week’s guest on the new GRDC podcast series, which aims to deliver the latest seasonal issues, ground-breaking research and trial results with on-farm application to grain growers, advisers, industry stakeholders and researchers.

This week’s interview with Dr Umina explores the progression of RWA since it was first detected in Australia in 2016. RWA is a major pest of cereal crops, injecting toxins into the plant during feeding which retards growth and, with heavy infestations, can potentially kill the plant.

The aphid was first detected in South Australia’s Mid North and has since been confirmed in Victoria, southern New South Wales and Tasmania.

In the past month there has been a confirmed report of RWA at Eugowra in central western NSW, as well as suspected sightings in the Condobolin region.

cesar has been closely involved in monitoring RWA and liaising with growers about incidences and control. Since its detection in Australia, Dr Umina has gained some valuable insights into RWA identification, behaviour and management in the southern region.

Dr Umina said climatic conditions were potentially favourable for the Russian wheat aphid in northern NSW and Queensland. However, he said while aphids were known to disperse long distances on wind currents, it was difficult to predict how quickly they would move north and west across Australia.

image of Paul Umina
Dr Paul Umina, a nationally recognised entomologist and director of cesar, will explain the identification, behaviour and management of RWA as this week’s guest on the new GRDC podcast series. Photo GRDC.

Management thresholds are currently being validated for local conditions and cereal varieties through the new GRDC investment.

A number of beneficial insects, predatory beetles, hover flies and other species, including parasitic wasps, can exert effective biological control over the aphid and this is a research area that will be investigated further within the current investment.

RWA populations tend to be their highest in spring and are relatively common in autumn, with numbers dropping off in the colder, wetter months of winter and in the heat of summer.

For more information about abundance data go to the RWA Portal and the and

For those working in the paddock the symptoms of RWA are generally easier to spot than the aphids themselves. When RWA feeds it introduces a toxin into the plant causing symptoms such as leaf rolling, lengthwise streaks (pale or purple), and stunting. However, not all hosts are equally as suitable for RWA production and development, and therefore symptoms may not always be obvious.

The RWA has already been declared established in NSW and is no longer a notifiable pest, however the NSW Department of Primary Industries and cesar are interested in hearing about incidences in previously unreported areas.

Growers or advisers who suspect RWA is present in previously unreported areas to contact cesar at or NSW Department of Primary Industries Biosecurity Officer, Rachel Taylor-Hukins (0409 945 069,

To listen to the new GRDC podcast series you can get direct links to iTunes or Soundcloud from or use this URL to listen from your desktop.

For more information about RWA identification and management go to: or

Contact Details


Toni Somes, GRDC
0436 622 645

GRDC Project code: ANV1804-001SAX