Improving pest management for the nursery industry NY17009 – A snapshot of IPM practices of participating production nurseries pre-project involvement

The Hort Innovation levy funded project Improving Pest Management for the Nursery Industry (NY17009) moved into its second year in April 2020. The objective of the project is to improve and inform production nurseries about pest management by assessing the economic benefits associated with implementing best management practices and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in production nurseries.

Seven NIASA accredited production nurseries from around the country have volunteered to be a part of the project. States include QLD, NSW, VIC, WA and SA. These production nurseries were chosen to represent nursery production in a variety of sectors including fruit tree, potted colour, indoor foliage, revegetation, and vegetable seedling production.

Participants have recorded the costs associated with the management of pests and disease under their normal day to day operations over the first year of the project. The same cost variables are now being recorded for the duration of the second year of the project as the production nursery implements IPM and best management practices. To assess participant knowledge and implementation of IPM practices pre-NY17009, the project is looking back in time to provide a glimpse into what elements of IPM participating growers were already implementing prior to their involvement in the project.

Participating production nurseries were sent a survey consisting of 10 questions. Questions were based on IPM best practice and were designed to give a picture of existing IPM practices in each of the production nurseries prior to NY17009 project commencement. The outcomes of this survey have been reviewed and a summary presented below.

Regular structured crop monitoring is an essential component of implementing IPM. Crop monitoring should be performed on a regular basis. A schedule for crop monitoring should be founded on the crop type, susceptibility to pests and disease and the season. It is also essential to record results from crop monitoring to:

  • monitor pest and disease populations,
  • assess the effectiveness of management methods, and
  • inform decisions in the future.

Before joining the NY17009 project, crop monitoring was performed as a scheduled activity once per month by 1 of 7 production nurseries, once per week by 3 of 7 production nurseries and for the remaining 3 of 7 production nurseries, crop monitoring was performed when a pest or disease issue was noticed. Findings from crop monitoring were not recorded by 2 of 7 production nurseries, 3 of 7 sometimes recorded their findings, and 2 of 7 always recorded their findings. Using crop monitoring records to inform pest management decisions was undertaken by 2 of the 5 production nurseries which were recording the findings of their crop monitoring.

To be effective, staff performing the job of crop monitoring must be familiar with the pests and diseases of the crop, the crop itself, and have a structured method for inspection. When asked how skilled staff are at inspecting plants and plant material for signs of pest and disease, most growers (4 of 7) thought their staff had basic skills for inspecting plants and plant material, with 3 of 7 growers believing their staff were very well trained to perform crop monitoring inspections.

Other inspections that provide for a comprehensive IPM program include import and despatch inspections. These inspections ensure that any plants or other green material are inspected for pest and disease before they enter or leave the production nursery. For the participating production nurseries, incoming stock was always inspected by 3 of 7 respondents, with the other 4 of 7 inspecting shipments of stock when they spotted something that did not look right. However, all production nurseries inspected their stock before it was despatched to their customer. The results of these inspections however were only recorded by 2 of 7 production nurseries in the project. Recording the results of inspections can be a useful tool in the instance that there is a dispute over quality of goods despatched or received.

IPM also depends on employing a variety of management options for pests and diseases in the production nursery. Engaging a diverse array of management options helps to lower instances of pest resistance` to chemicals, increase chemical efficacy and improve worker safety. Applications of chemicals, the release of beneficial organisms combined with systematic crop monitoring to inform on success of a treatment, all contribute to a successful IPM program. According to the feedback from the survey, most production nurseries believed that the combination of all of these is pertinent to implementing a successful IPM program.

The results from the survey indicate that NY17009 participants will improve their pest and disease management by participating in the project. Benefits to pest and disease management will come through improvements to processes already in place, refinement of crop monitoring scheduling, process and inspection activities, improving pest identification knowledge, better record keeping, and making more informed decisions based historical data. Conclusions on the financial benefit of implementing IPM from will be available at the conclusion of the project.

For more information on the project contact Celeste Cook on 0491 262 596 or contact a plant protection officer in your state:
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