Much needed rainfall across the regions didn’t prevent growers and industry groups from attending a series of pest information sessions last month. The workshops in Gympie, Yeppoon and Mackay were well supported with more than 73 growers and industry stakeholders participating in the Hort360 Pest Aware, Pest Prepared workshops.  

Growcom’s Hort360 Facilitators coordinated the series to address pressing grower concerns around Fall Armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) and other management issues such as resistance management and biosecurity. Workshops featured presentations on innovative pest sensor technology RapidAIM, which enables rapid pest detection and monitoring to growers in real time. Additional topics covered included beneficial bug use in commercial settings, drone technology to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of beneficial bug release, integrated pest management and the availability of resources such as Infopest, Growcom’s premier online ag-vet chemical database featuring all chemicals registered and approved by the APVMA. 

AUSVEG’s National Biosecurity Coordinator Callum Fletcher presented at the workshops, highlighting several problematic species that the industry is constantly monitoring, and encouraging growers to be vigilant. “If you are not monitoring, you are not managing!” stated Callum Fletcher. 

Bugs for Bugs Entomologist Paul Jones amazed participants at workshops in Wolvi and Yeppoon with his extensive knowledge of the insect world and the range of beneficial insects that can be used to effectively control pest species.  

Experienced scientific researcher and innovator Dr Nancy Schellhorn presented on specialised early detection sensor technology, RapidAIM. The device sends real-time notifications to a mobile phone, alerting the grower of the presence of the Queensland fruit fly, with advancements of this technology being made to address a range of other pests. Dr Schellhorn stated the technology is changing entire spray programs of horticulture growers that have incorporated the RapidAIM sensors.  

“The growers are learning where and when there is a QFly incursion; this means they can act quickly thus accelerating the effectiveness of their spray program,” Dr Schellhorn said. 

Growcom’s Hort360 GBR Facilitator Michelle Haase said, “We had a high level of support from industry stakeholders such as the Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers and the Mary Valley Country Harvest Cooperative, as well as regional groups. Fitzroy Basin Association supported the workshop in Yeppoon and additional activities via Hort360 GBR over the coming month for horticulture growers in the Fitzroy region.” 

“We understand that our growers are fatigued with impacts of COVID-19 and resulting labour shortages, as well as pest pressures and ongoing water scarcity issues. We value the continued support of growers in the Hort360 program and are here to assist growers in being involved,” Ms Haase said.  

Hort360 GBR is funded through the Queensland Government’s Reef Water Quality Program and delivered by Growcom. The workshops were a collaborative initiative of AUSVEG, Bundaberg Fruit & Vegetable Growers, and Fitzroy Basin Association, facilitated by Growcom’s Hort360 Facilitators in the Great Barrier Reef.