Techniques for dealing with avocado and grape pests are shared in Western Australia.
A three-year research project has identified six spots that are considered avocado pests in Lower West WA and New Zealand.
The pest feeds on the leaves of the avocado trees and, in large numbers, causes the plant to shed its leaves and expose the fruit to sunburn – destroying quality, cost and return to farmers.
Wawa Primary Industries and Regional Development Department (DPIRD) is in the final year of the project, supported by Hort Innovation.
The findings so far have been shared with Southwest farmers at a workshop in Manjimp last month.
Alison Matthews, a research scientist at the department, said the study provided some useful insights into developing an integrated pest management program.
“Little is known about how six dots work in avocados, and some basic research is needed to better understand this pest,” he said.
“This includes when and how to keep track of them and the best management practices for different times of the year.
“We know they are very active in the spring.
The key focus of the project is to develop appropriate crop monitoring practices to help develop medical guidelines.
According to Ms. Matthew, one of the key lessons in research is the differences in pest distribution not only among properties but also in plants.
“The termites are very small and this makes it very important for you to keep track of them,” he said.
“If possible, it is important to manage different blocks in the orchard as separate units.
It is advisable to pick the most mature ones and collect leaves from several trees in the block.
Ants are very good at cultivating resistance and we have seen them grow in different orchards at different times – never – so it is important to monitor and manage them regularly if the numbers are correct.
Although there are registered treatment options for controlling six spots, useful insect repellents have been evaluated as part of the project.
“We have conducted case studies to determine when, where and how best to treat,” said Matthew.
At the end of the project next year, a six-spot management package for avocado will be developed to help protect avocado farmers from pests and improve crop yields.
Using hand-held magnifying glasses, the pest can be distinguished from other termites on avocado leaves.
It can be found on the lower part of the leaves, about 0.3 mm long, reddish-yellow to green in color and – despite its name – does not always have six dots but shows black marks that vary greatly between individuals.
According to WA DPIRD, avocado production is currently the largest and fastest growing fruit industry in WA, with $ 337,239 tonnes in the 20-20 million dollar crop in Pemberton, Manjim upp, Busesonton, Wanero and Gingin.
About two-thirds of avocado orchards in WA are in full-grown, including young trees, which will begin to produce in the next few years.
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