Insects main worry for Downs growers

Photo of a farmer standing in a field

Graingrowers on the fertile and intensively farmed cropping soils of the Darling Downs say insect controls are their biggest research need — soil insects, in-crop pests like heliothis, and insects that damage grain after it goes into storage.

Their priority 'wish list' for the GRDC is to help them find integrated and coordinated answers to insect problems.

That's the message from the Darling Downs Research Advisory Committee (RAC) to the Northern Panel of the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC). The annual Priority Issues Paper lists grower views of research needs in the eight sub-regions that make up Australia's northern grains region — Queensland and NSW north of the Macquarie River.

In all, there are eight of the committees in the northern grains region — with members appointed for three years. Most committee members are growers, but RACs also include representatives of agribusiness and research providers.

Insects and stubble

Darling Downs RAC chairman, Wayne Newton, told the Northern Panel the successful adoption of stubble preservation farming on the Downs — and increased levels of double-cropping — had led to the explosion in insect problems.

Growing interest in high-value crops like cotton, and in legumes, had identified a greater need for improved coordination in controlling insect pests while minimising spray drift.

Problems included armyworm, cutworm and crickets in soil, Rutherglen bug and aphids on top of heliothis in crop, and the various insect pests of stored grain.

"Greater integration and — in the case of heliothis — cross-industry coordination are required to improve control of these pests," Mr Newton said. "We need a better understanding of chemical residues, spray drift and the safe use of pesticides, to satisfy both consumer concerns and quality assurance."

More and better technology transfer

More effective communication and transfer of new technology — a "hoary chestnut" — were together the second-highest research need listed by the Darling Downs RAC in the Priority Issues Paper.

Growers said stronger links were required between research and extension to achieve effective technology transfer. They want better access to decision-support systems, and better access to on-line databases and information services such as DPI CropLink.

After that, Darling Downs growers said they would like to see research targeted to:

  • higher yields, quality improvement and better disease resistance in winter cereals, particularly wheat, still the major crop in Queensland
  • improvements in summer crops like sorghum and 'secondary' ones such as rain-fed soybeans, canary and oats, all needed to take advantage of planting opportunities and market niches
  • crop nutrition and soil health, particularly for farmers setting goals of higher yields through improved water-use efficiency
  • market information and marketing techniques, building on the APSIM computer model to interpret seasonal supply of grains and international influences.

Some of these priorities are part of current research projects, and new items will help determine future research support.

Contact: Mr Wayne Newton 07 4663 8120

Region North, South, West