Have you been to a cotton catch-up in your valley lately?
The purpose of the catch-ups is to provide an opportunity for growers and agronomists to gain a better understanding of IPM issues and the pests and beneficial insects that people are seeing in fields, and discuss management options being implemented or considered.
One of the big drivers for the renewal in these cotton catch-ups (previously known as area wide management meetings) is the increasing levels of insecticide resistance in pests such as silverleaf whitefly (SLW). Many insects, including SLW, are highly mobile and the management practices imposed on a given field and farm are likely to influence the populations and insecticide resistance in the surrounding area.
While insect management was the original instigator of area wide management meetings, it is just part of the discussion these days. Sharna Holman, CottonInfo's technical lead for biosecurity, spoke to Janelle Montgomery and Amanda Thomas, CottonInfo's regional extension officers in the Gwydir and Macquarie to find out more about the cotton catch-ups organised or supported by CottonInfo across the industry.
Q: What are ‘Cotton Catch-ups’ about and who is invited?
“AWM meetings first started before we had genetically modified Bt cotton. Heliothis were a major pest and resistance was rife. The industry was promoting IPM and AWM was a way of helping people understand IPM practices. So there was an issue that growers and consultants worked together (with the help from researchers) to manage.
"Since Bt cotton was introduced, we all became a bit complacent: AWM phased out, and there was no real reason to be meet until our secondary pests started to become our primary pests – mirids, silverleaf whitefly and the newcomer, mealybug. Our industry research tells us we need to adopt softer chemistry to protect our beneficial insects. IPM was back on our agenda and a shocking silverleaf whitefly season in 2016-2017 opened up the opportunity to reinvigorate AWM groups, although in some regions with a new name: cotton catch-ups.
"We invite growers, consultants, chemical resellers, chemical agents and industry personnel including researchers, extension officers, bankers and the like. They all have good information to share, but we are conscious that these meetings are for growers.
"We had a NRM focus at one of our catch-ups looking at landscapes for beneficials. With the Gwydir Raft, an iconic feature west of Moree as our backdrop, a cotton grower who was passionate about native vegetation and some great researchers - it was a wonderful and very successful afternoon. We also visit local trials including the CSIRO plant breeding trials. All this fantastic research goes on in the valley and these cotton catch-ups give us an opportunity to share it with all, while visiting researchers have the chance to extend their results or raise the awareness of their research projects. Local consultants also share some of their trial results, such as Mike Stone’s beneficial insect releases.”
Q: Years ago area wide management meetings seemed to be all about coordinating pesticide sprays. Is that still the case now?
“It’s not coordinating sprays so much as talking about what we are using, what is working, when we are spraying and hoping some peer pressure and improved understanding results in better spray practices. Bringing in the Pyriproxifen window gave the group another reason to come together work out the best window.
“We discuss what options are working well and in some cases there may be areas that are coordinating an approach as it can be problematic when you use an insect growth regulator and your neighbour uses a knock down sending an adult population back into your field.
“Along with talking about insect pests and beneficials, spray schedules and products, we also talk weeds, disease, water and we spend a good deal of time on crop development. Everyone gets to tell the group about their crop, what stage it is at, how many irrigations, or rainfall for dryland, retention and other key crop monitoring parameters. This lets people know the range of crops we might have in a region, support that you might not be the only one facing a particular issue but also share solutions and ideas with the group in terms of management.”
Q: Why are they important and what is the benefit of attending?
“These meetings are important as each season brings with it a new set of unique circumstances that can impact pest management. In some years, some chemistry can be compromised or not as efficient due to climatic factors such as cloudy weather. When we get together in these small groups we can discuss what is working and what is not, and the feedback from others can save you from repeating the same mistake.
"Growers and agronomists who attended the Telleraga AWM meetings last year said the best things about attending (apart from the beer!) were: hearing from growers and consultants about how they're faring and what they're doing; hearing useful management strategies; gauging what's going on across the valley; hearing from researchers and consultants from other areas; providing an opportunity for open discussion; and catching up with others to ensure no one was isolated."
Q: Who is often involved in organising the meetings – and who decides what will be discussed?
“In the Macquarie, for example, the CottonInfo REO and the Macquarie Cotton Growers Association (MCGA) play a big role in organising the meetings. All industry representatives should be aware of the meetings, as it is wise to cover off on a broad range of topics to prevent too many meetings from happening in an area.
“Likewise, in the Gwydir: they're collaborative events hosted by CottonInfo and Gwydir CGA. Topic areas are run past the CGA, CSD, Cotton Australia and our CCA rep and people at previous meetings. Contact is maintained with growers and consultants through the season so if an issue arises we can deal with it at a meeting. It might mean we invite a guest speaker – a researcher or grower/consultant from another region etc. As part of the meeting, CSD, Cotton Australia, Bayer and CCA give an update on trials, relevant policy or industry messages, TIMMS committee update etc.”
Q: How regular are the meetings?
“In the Macquarie this year we are doing a pre-season, mid-season and post-season meeting due to the drought, however usually have 4 or 5 meetings a season.”
“In the Gwydir, we have no more than 1 per month, with generally a 4–6 week gap between meeting as there is often other local events and field days in between where everyone can catch up. We have only held them over the cotton season.”
Q: I am interested in coming along, how do I get involved or know when there is a local meeting?
“Get in touch with your local CottonInfo REO.
"All cotton communication networks are delivered differently according to the needs of the respective region, however all have the same end goal of ensuring growers and agronomists leave engaged, updated and informed about what is happening locally through the sharing of information.
"CottonInfo Regional Extension Officers also conduct a regular Crop Check, a summary report of crop stage, pest or disease issues and other production comments provided anonymously by local agronomists and consultants."
This blog is part of a year long program from CottonInfo, with the themes aligned with the 2020 CottonInfo cotton calendar and the UN's International Year of Plant Health. For more information, view the calendar, or contact the CottonInfo Technical Lead for Biosecurity, Sharna Holman.