Research pays off in RLEM fight

27 Oct, 1999 09:59 AM
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NEW CSIRO research has found ways for farmers to end plagues of red-legged earth mites in pasture and crops. During several years of research, partly funded by The Woolmark Company, CSIRO Entomology chief research scientist Dr James Ridsdill-Smith, Perth, and technician Celia Pavri discovered that carefully-timed mite control in spring prevented the mites producing the over-summer eggs. The eggs, which hatch the following autumn, can unleash swarms of mites on delicate crop seedlings and emerging pasture plants. The study found that the most cost-effective means of chemically controlling the pest was to spray mites about two weeks before the eggs are produced in the spring. CSIRO and The Woolmark Company have bundled the essence of the research into Timerite, a user-friendly information kit that provides farmers with necessary background on the pest and, most importantly, the key to successful mite control < an optimum date for spraying. The information provided by Timerite is highly specific < farms only 10 kilometres apart may have different spraying dates. Farmers buying the Timerite kit must supply a geographic feature or map co-ordinates that accurately identify where they are. Cranbrook farmer Mark Addis was one of 40 farmers involved in recent testing of Timerite. Until 1998, Mr Addis had taken the usual approach to the once-imprecise science of red-legged earth mite control < he would spray "when I had a problem or when I could find the time". Last year, he took the advice of CSIRO researchers to disregard other lore surrounding mite control and simply spray his clover pastures on a specific date in spring. On and around the advised date, Mr Addis applied LeMat insecticide to 800 hectares of clover pastures on his 5000ha property, Gordon River Estate. The results began to appear in autumn, when it became apparent that Mr Addis' mite populations had been reduced from 11,804 mites per square metre to 6104 mites/sq m < a reduction of 95 per cent. Mr Addis said the implications for farm management were enormous. "Where I didn't use Timerite, I haven't been able to get the stocking rate above about six DSE. Where we sprayed using Timerite, the stocking rate has been 10-15 DSE," he said. Trials of the new program across southern Australia during 1998 echoed this success. In subterranean clover pastures, average seed yield improvement across the 40 farms was 135 kg/ha, or 36pc The average increase in seedlings was 503/sq m, equating to a 79pc improvement. ÿ

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