Grain growers keep close eye on Russian wheat aphid spread

29.08.2016

Grain growers are keeping a close eye on warming temperatures, with the onset of spring likely to increase the number of Russian wheat aphid sightings.

The Russian wheat aphid was first discovered in Australia in June, and has now spread across much of south-eastern Australia.

The pest can destroy up to 100 per cent of barley crops and 80 per cent of wheat crops.

Initially found in South Australia's mid-north, the pest has since spread across large areas of Victoria and has recently been confirmed in New South Wales.

Grain Producers Australia chairman Andrew Weidemann said aphid sightings were likely to increase once warmer weather set in.

"Now as we move into the spring, only a couple of days away, we'll really see day temperatures warm up," he said.

"We would see normal aphid activity starting to occur from now on, so really it is a matter of monitoring and watching.

"We really need to see how it builds up over the next couple of weeks."

Growers are still being urged to use restraint when it comes to spraying to control the pests.

"Where there were situations where there was a lot of early growth, particularly in South Australia, there have been some paddocks that have been sprayed, but they are very much in the minority," Mr Weidemann said.

"I think more people realise that insects are really beneficial in a lot of ways to the overall ecological cycle within a farming program.

"So we need to maintain some level of insects within the crops, when they're beneficial.

"But if the aphids get to the point where they're causing damage to the crops, we need to look at eradication methods."

Growers' concerns decrease

Mr Weidemann said growers who were initially worried by the spread of the pest had had some of those concerns allayed.

"Certainly the growers I am talking to are quite comfortable about what they are doing," he said.

"I think initially when there's any sort of hype around a new pest or disease, there's always a fear of the unknown, that's just human nature.

"As we've seen things evolve over the last month or two since the original sighting, people have become more comfortable with the research work that is being done.

"They're well prepared to manage anything from here to the end of the cropping program."

Mr Weidemann said the season was looking exciting in terms of potential yield, but prices were another story.

"Production-wise you couldn't be better placed right across Victoria for some really big crops, should we get favourable conditions from here to home," he said.

 


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