A JOINT Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and Agriculture Victoria initiative to provide early warning of dangerous pest and disease incursions has been officially launched nationally.
Grow Notes Alert was released nationally at last week’s Birchip Cropping Group (BCG) main field day.
Already it has played a major role in the timely release of information regarding the spread of Russian Wheat Aphid across South Australia, Victoria and NSW earlier in the year.
It provides digital early warning alerts for crop diseases, pests and weeds.
Project manager Chris Pittock, Agriculture Victoria, said the system helped cut the lag time in getting information out to growers.
“Under previous systems, the lag time meant by the time we got the information to growers the problem was well and truly upon them.
“With Grow Notes Alert we got an alert regarding RWA out within 24 hours of officially identifying the aphid.”
Since then, alerts have gone out regarding the presence of blackleg and sclerotinia in canola, ascochyta in chickpeas and rust pressures in cereal crops.
Dr Pittock said the warnings allowed growers to go out and look to see if the problems were present in their own crop and contain their spread.
He said farmers had been pleased with the service and there was increasing demand.
“Over 4000 people saw our sclerotinia alert, with most hits coming from the northern region and a large number of those visitors clicked through for further information," Dr Pittock said.
Operationally, the Grow Notes Alert system is a two-way program, allowing growers to log any unusual observations from the paddock.
“Growers can upload photos on the spot, feeding relevant and immediate information back to our extensive range of experts across Australia.”
Once receiving an alert, growers can then access a range of information surrounding a particular issue to allow them to make the best management decision to control the problem.
“The more data received from the paddock, the more thorough the service becomes.”
He said information was only sent out when there was a problem to avoid information overload.
“Growers only hear from Grow Notes Alert when there is a problem.”
The photos and information from the field are sent to Dr Pittock’s team. If a problem is identified, the information is passed on to the relevant specialists who will decide whether an alert needs to be sent out.
As part of the push to encourage farmers and agronomists to submit information, Dr Pittock said new members were being sent a new super macro camera lens that plugs in to smart phones allowing them to take detailed photos of diseases presenting on leaves which can then be submitted to the Grow Notes Alert team of experts.
“We’ve just got some photos back from growers of ascochyta blight in chickpeas in northern Victoria and the detail from the photos is outstanding,” he said.
Along with the extension work, Dr Pittock said Grow Notes Alert was also providing valuable data collection point for exporters of Australian grain.
“In terms of market access, the information provided by the system is invaluable,” he said.
“It can be hard to prove you don’t have a particular disease, but if we have a collection of photos and we have a thousand or 2000 or whatever photos showing crops with no symptoms of a particular disease or pest then that is strong data.”
GrowNotes Alert builds on the existing success of GRDC GrowNotes, which contains a wide body of national expertise in one place, as well as numerous resources, including eXtensionAUS, CropSafe, CropPro, PestFacts, PestFax and Plant Health Australia, to name a few.
Subscribers can choose to receive that information as push notifications to their smart phones, tablets or computers as an SMS and/or email, or by logging into the GrowNotes Alert subscriber website portal.
Twitter handles @GNAlertNorth @GNAlertSouth and @GNAlertWest can also be followed.
The free Apple (iOS) app is also available to download now, with an Android version almost store-ready.