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New tool helps growers curb aphids

Published on 27/09/2022

Developed by the Foundation for Arable Research (FAR) and Kiwi ag-tech company HortPlus, the free-to-grower Aphid Tool can be accessed via the weather and disease portal on FAR’s website.
It helps identify periods of time
that are most favourable to aphid reproduction, so growers can better monitor population levels.

“Early winter is an aphid risk
period for cereal crops so this tool was well timed for New Zealand’s cereal growers,” says FAR senior researcher Jo Drummond. “It provides valuable data that growers can use to decide when spray is or is not needed.”

In NZ, aphids can cause millions
of dollars of damage to crops every year. They are a common vector for plant diseases such as Yellow Dwarf Virus (YDV), which can significantly reduce yield among wheat, barley and oat crops.

The main BYDV vectoring spe
cies in NZ cereals are the bird cherry oat aphid and the rose grain aphid. Both require temperatures above 5.8°C to reproduce.
The data driving the Aphid Tool
is sourced from a network of weather stations across NZ. Drummond says if farmers apply insecticide when risk periods are highest according to the data, rather than using a calendar, they can reduce the number of spray applications required.

“That’s a win for the environ
ment and a key reason we have worked with HortPlus on this tool as one of many actions underway in support of the Lighter Touch sustainability initiative.”

FAR also has a regional network
of monitor paddocks that track aphid and beneficial insect populations. Using data from these monitor paddocks, combined with the new Aphid Tool, growers can now manage aphids more strategically than in the past, she says.

HortPlus director Mike Barley
says partnering with FAR to develop the tool was the obvious choice.

“FAR is New Zealand’s lead re
search organisation for arable growers – responsible for supporting an industry worth more than $2.1 billion to the New Zealand economy.

We saw an opportunity to de
velop a tool that can help drive smarter decisions, improved environmental outcomes, and higher profits for farmers who can better plan how to protect their crops.

With the ongoing challenges
New Zealand’s growers face, there is a lot of benefit in having insight for pests such as aphids. We will continue to develop the Aphid Tool further to integrate different data sources including aphid and beneficial species population monitoring to provide a comprehensive management view.”

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