Getting involved in Horticulture BMP results in marked improvement in efficiencies and yield.

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Ken & Eliza Brown, Keppel Orchards, Yeppoon, invested in 10 RapidAIM sensors to help control Q-Fly outbreaks.

In April 2021, Ken Brown, Keppel Orchards, Yeppoon, attended a Hort360 pest management workshop, searching for best practice methods to manage the insect pest Queensland Fruit-Fly (Q-Fly) on custard apple crops.

Despite a concerted spray program, orchard hygiene and biosecurity practices in place, significant losses of custard apples continued to occur at Keppel Orchards from Q-Fly.

The workshop Pest Aware; Pest Prepared featured presentations by experts in ag-tech monitoring innovation, beneficial insects, and efficiencies in spray technology including from Bugs for Bugs, RapidAIM, TP Engineering, and Growcom (InfoPest, Hort360).

Entomologist, ag-tech researcher and founder of RapidAIM, Dr Nancy Schellhorn, presented on how their ag-technology product worked as a surveillance grid for the earliest possible indication of Queensland fruit fly (Q-fly) activity in an orchard. 

Dr Schellhorn explained how the RapidAIM technology was able to provide real-time Q-fly pressure data to a mobile device, enabling growers to make informed, timely decisions and adopt precision spray practices in their orchards.

“I knew as soon as Nancy started talking that this was something we needed to get on-board with,” Ken said, whose family-run operation grows custard apples, avocados and mangos.

Stings from Q-Fly damages fruit causing skin discolouration, rapid decomposition, early decay and fruit drop.

The situation was completely dire. Ken found hope, however, during Dr Schellhorn’s presentation that looked at use of sensor technology providing real-time notification on the presence of Q-Fly.

“We just couldn’t get the jump on them [Q-Fly] and the presentation helped me to understand why.”

Given the extent of the troubles they were having with Q-fly, Keppel Orchard chose to invest in ten RapidAIM sensors, to establish a network across their 15 hectares of custard apples.

The network of lured sensors detects the presence of male Q-fly, sending an alert to their mobiles and notifying them that Q-fly were active in a specific location.

In addition to this, the software keeps a record of time, location, and number of every detection. This gave the Browns real-time indications of Q-fly populations and their whereabouts within the orchard.

The results and consequential overhaul of their approach to dealing with Q-fly resulted in a ten-fold increase in custard apple yield. Other benefits of adoption of the sensors included:

  • more time – the sensors have freed up time previously spent setting and checking traps, and sitting on the tractor spraying during the night
  • reduced use of amount of pesticides and a consequential savings on pesticide
  • incorporation of more beneficial bugs
  • enables forecasting and planning spray programs for the next season using property data and trend records.

“Simply by modifying the time of spray application to early morning, say about 6am, within a month the number of fruit fly detections went from 92 down to four,” Ken said.  

RapidAIM is currently running a deal for Hort360 Reef Certified growers – purchase nine sensors and receive a 10th sensor free, saving $360.

The Pest Aware; Pest Prepared workshop was coordinated by Growcom with support from regional NRM group Fitzroy Basin Association, national vegetable peak industry body AUSVEG, and the Queensland Government.

Reef Certification is an initiative of Hort360 GBR which is funded through the Queensland Government’s Queensland Reef Water Quality Program and delivered by Growcom. Reef Certification is a certifiable, third-party audit pathway for commercial horticulture growers to demonstrate stewardship to improving reef water quality and the GBR. Reef Certified growers receive a trademarked marketing kit for use in marketing produce.