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Reducing pest control costs for arable farmers

Reducing pest control costs for arable farmers

A group of Canterbury farmers and their commercial and scientific partners hope to encourage uptake of improved methods for controlling crop pests.

They are backing a project that will be administered by Crop & Food Research’s Abie Horrocks, who last year received an arable industry (FAR) award for her work on an integrated pest management (IPM) regime for controlling slugs.

The project group is called the Canterbury Arable Farmer IPM Initiative. It includes a collective of interested Canterbury farmers, the Foundation for Arable Research, PGG Wrightson and Crop & Food Research.

The project has attracted financial support from MAF’s Sustainable Farming Fund.

“This three-year project will build on other IPM-related work,” Ms Horrocks says. “However, it will be focusing on developing more of a sustainable IPM ‘system’ for arable crops that doesn’t just look at each pest in isolation.

“The main aim is to build farmer confidence in IPM. To do this we need to demonstrate how the conventional and IPM approaches compare in terms of pest control, beneficial predators, pesticide use and of course yields and cost.”

Ms Horrocks says the involvement of farmers like Cantabrian David Ward is crucial to the success of the project.

“The farmers involved in the Initiative are forward thinking. Clearly they want to make a profit from their farms but they also want to minimise unnecessary pesticide use as well as utilise the beneficial predators that can contribute to pest control.”

Detailed planning has begun for the autumn planting of paired-paddock demonstration sites where a conventionally managed crop will be able to be compared to an IPM managed crop.

“Many farmers need to see the financial and environmental benefits of IPM before they commit to change,” Ms Horrocks says. “In Australia, IPM adoption followed soon after IPM demonstration trials.”

Ms Horrocks says the IPM programme will link in with another important research programme investigating ways that the vegetable seed industry might encourage and manage native pollinators.

The team suspect that IPM practices may promote the effectiveness of native pollinators, especially at a time when honey bees are struggling with the varroa mite.

ENDS


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