Insect and mite management

Controlling pests with beneficials: integrated pest management

As growers know, an over reliance on insecticides results in problems such as resistance, the disruption of natural pest enemies, secondary pest outbreaks, and damage to the environment.

An integrated insect and mite management approach (otherwise known as Integrated Pest Management or IPM) incorporates a range of tactics and resources to reduce pest outbreaks and reduce the reliance on insecticides for their management.

IPM is a whole year approach to managing pests, as cropping decisions made in the autumn and winter can impact on pest management during the summer. It is also an approach that considers the dynamics of pests in the surrounding cropping areas as well as in the natural vegetation in and around the farm.

What do you need to know? 

At the heart of IPM is the conservation of natural enemies. A key tactic in conserving natural enemies is making well informed and rational pest management decisions to provide the best opportunity to reduce the overall need to spray, and hence help conserve beneficial species such as predatory insects, spiders, bats and birds.

IPM supports the long term stable management of pests, maintains profitability, reduces the risk of insecticide resistance and minimises risks to human health and the environment.

Integrated Pest Management tactics

Insecticide choice:  

Some insecticides have very little impact on beneficial insects, while others are highly disruptive. When selecting a pest control option, follow the Insecticide Resistance Management Strategy (IRMS) and also refer to the relative selectivity of insecticides for use in cotton, which is tabulated in the insects chapter of the Cotton Pest Management Guide.

An increase in populations of non-target pests such as aphid, mite and whitefly may follow insecticide applications if beneficial populations are disrupted.

The use of reduced rates of synthetic insecticides mixed with salt or spray oil can in some instances provide greater selectivity and better efficacy.

Rotation crops:   

Consequences for pest management should be factored into crop selection decisions. Some rotation crops can increase pest numbers which could then migrate into nearby cotton crops. Risk can be managed in terms of timing and location.

Field selection: 

Before planting cotton, consider the proximity to sensitive areas (eg. buildings and watercourses). Bollgard II varieties may be best suited to fields closer to sensitive areas.

Weed management: 

Many cotton pests rely on volunteer cotton and weed hosts prior to migrating into cotton fields. For pest suppression leading into each cotton season, weeds need to be managed in fallow fields, along field borders and irrigation channels, and in perennial vegetation and pastures.

A healthy crop:  

Vigorous, healthy, early growth enables the crop to recover in many situations from early season pest damage. Good seedbed preparation, variety choice and planting at the right time can help achieve good cotton establishment and early growth.

Working with your neighbours: 

Insects live in landscapes, not on individual farms. Management strategies used on one farm can affect surrounding farms. Sharing strategies and coordinating tactics with neighbouring growers can increase success in implementing IPM. This is an approach known as Area Wide Management.

Valuable vegetation: 

Healthy perennial native vegetation provides habitat for beneficial species which can play a significant role in pest suppression.

Trap cropping: 

Trap cropping concentrates the pest in a small area of host crop that is more attractive than the crop you are aiming to protect. Lucerne planted in strips within fields or along field edges, or in a field adjacent to cotton, can serve as an effective trap for mirids and aphids, as well as enhancing the build-up of beneficial insects.

BeeConnected: the new way to help protect honey bees   

Cotton farms can be a high risk environment for bees, particularly during long periods of dry weather. As pollen in native vegetation becomes increasingly scarce, cotton becomes one of the most attractive sources of pollen and nectar – and honey bees can travel for up to seven kilometres to access it.

Bees are particularly susceptible to many of the insecticides still used in cotton production (such as fipronil, clothianidin, abamectin, indoxacarb and pyrethroids) – which is why communication between growers and beekeepers is important.

To help growers be aware of hives near their farms, CropLife Australia and the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council run BeeConnected - a website and mobile app to allow all farmers, including cotton growers, and beekeepers to notify each other of their crop protection activities and hive locations. 

Beekeepers can log the location of bee hives, and farmers and spray contractors can log the location of activities involving the use of crop protection products.

For more information, and to download BeeConnected, click here. BeeConnected is available at no cost on iPhone, Android and desktop computers, and replaces BeeAlert, the original cotton industry bee protection program. 

So, what should you do on your farm?

  • Know what’s going on in your crop:  regularly monitor crop growth, insect pressure and insect damage
  • Follow the cotton industry’s Insecticide Resistance Management Strategy (IRMS) when insecticide is used (found in the Cotton Pest Management Guide)
  • Conserve beneficial insects in your crop by avoiding ‘insurance sprays’ and choosing a selective pesticide option if necessary
  • Minimise the impact of insecticides on bees
  • Think beyond the crop – perennial native vegetation is an important refuge for natural enemies.
  • Control weeds in your crop and in the surrounding landscape to reduce potential insect pest outbreaks.
  • Remove cotton volunteers and ratoon plants from all cropping and non-cropping areas to reduce the carryover of pests and diseases and the development of pesticide resistance.
  • Work as part of a team with others in your farm business and with neighbouring farms to keep people safe, protect your environment and get the greatest value out of the resources you invest in insect management.

For more information on insect management visit the myBMP Integrated Pest Management module.

Where should I go for more information?

Technical Specialists:

Sandra Williams - Technical Specialist IPM, CottASSIST support
Ph: 02 6799 1585
Em: sandra.williams@csiro.au

Sharna Holman - Technical Specialist, Disease, Volunteer and Ratoon Management 
Ph: 0477 394 116
Em: sharna.holman@daf.qld.gov.au

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