Controlling pests with beneficials: integrated pest management
Successful pest management aims to keep pest populations at levels where they do not cause economic damage, maintain profitability over time and preserve our natural environment. An over reliance on insecticides can result in problems such as resistance, the disruption of natural pest enemies, secondary pest outbreaks and damage to the environment.
An integrated pest management (IPM) approach uses knowledge of pest biology, behaviour and ecology to implement a range tactics integrated to supress and reduce pest outbreaks and 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 influence 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 supported by good sampling, valid control thresholds and knowledge of beneficial pests presents in your crop. Well informed and rational IPM decisions 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
Product choice can have a large impact on your IPM strategy for the remainder of the season. 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 (to avoid resistance), how effective they are on the pest, and their risk and selectivity to the beneficial population. Information on the impact of insecticides and miticides on beneficials 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.
Know your enemy:
Knowing the biology, behaviour and ecology of your pests and beneficials allows you to make well-informed pest management decisions. Make sure you receive that latest pest sample, threshold and management research updates by signing up to the CottonInfo mailing list and publications including the Cotton Pest Management Guide.
Consequences for pest management should be factored into crop selection decisions. Some rotation crops can increase pest numbers that could then migrate into nearby cotton crops. Risk can be managed in terms of timing and location.
Before planting cotton, consider the proximity to sensitive areas (e.g. buildings and watercourses), pest hosts and beneficial habitats.
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.
Grow 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.
Healthy perennial native vegetation provides habitat for beneficial species that can play a significant role in pest suppression.
BeeConnected: 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. Good communication between growers and beekeepers is critical in reducing unintended exposure of bees to any products that may have a potentially negative consequence to bee health.
To help growers be aware of hives near their farms, CropLife Australia and the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council run BeeConnected - a free 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. The effectiveness of BeeConnected is greatest when as many growers and beekeepers as possible use the services.
Beekeepers can log the location of beehives, 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.
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 here and 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?
- Australian Cotton Production Manual
- Cotton Pest Management Guide
- Insecticide Resistance Management Strategy
- Pests and Beneficials in Australian Cotton Landscapes
- CottonInfo fact sheet: Managing Silverleaf Whitefly in Australian cotton
- CottonInfo case study: Growing cotton without using insecticide: using IPM to control pests
- CottonInfo/NSW DPI exotic cotton pests summaries:
- BeeConnected (CropLife): smart-phone app and website that enables collaboration between growers, beekeepers and spray contractors to protect bees.
- Cotton Rotation Finder (Cotton CRC): tool to assist with developing a rotation strategy to manage pests and pathogens
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