With a wet start to the season, pests are proving to be a major challenge for cotton growers this summer, resulting in a potential – and ultimately damaging – overreliance on insecticides.
As a result, CottonInfo and CRDC partnered with leading industry experts on Integrated Pest Management (IPM), including Dr Lewis Wilson of CSIRO, to deliver a series of workshops on IPM across five cotton growing valleys – encouraging growers to consider their potential pest management strategies.
The workshops - held at Warren, Griffith, Cecil Plains, Boggabilla and Boggabri - had a clear message for growers: you can achieve high yielding cotton using IPM.
“An overreliance on insecticides to help manage pests can have very serious consequences,” says CRDC R&D Manager, Susan Maas.
“It can result in problems such as resistance, the disruption of natural pest enemies, secondary pest outbreaks, and damage to the environment.
“But these issues can be avoided through the more sustainable pest control measures encouraged via IPM – and importantly, you can still achieve high yielding cotton,” Susan said.
Boggabri cotton grower Andrew Watson has shown that with optimal growth rates, a healthy population of beneficial predators and a plant monitoring approach, it is possible to grow a Bt cotton crop with significantly reduced reliance on insecticides.
After many years working towards improving natural habitat on farm, by last year, Andrew had documented a significant change in pest pressure in his cropping system.
“As the tree belts and shrub vegetation grows and thickens throughout the farm, we have found we are no longer reaching insect pest thresholds that would in the past have indicated a need to spray,” Andrew said.
“This is different to seven or eight years ago when we tolerated over threshold populations, to avoid destroying beneficial insects, giving the beneficials extra time to control the pests.
“It’s very important to highlight that while insect pest numbers have been reduced in our fields, most nearby cotton farms are still reaching threshold populations requiring chemical sprays,” he said.
Andrew is one of five cotton growers from different valleys who hosted the CottonInfo and CRDC IPM workshop series.