Articles

Integrated Pest Management: the Future of Pest Control

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) has been gradually gaining followers over the years amongst farmers and growers as a way to manage pests economically and with the least amount of risk to people and the environment.

It involves using the latest scientific information on how pests live and interact with their environment to select the best available means to control them.

Different IPM programs usually involve a number of similar practices, including:

  • Monitoring of crops and accurately identifying the pests that need to be controlled (and those that don’t)
  • Determining the point at which the numbers of a problem pest at a particular site would pose an economic threat to a crop (i.e. when the cost of damage is more than the cost of control)

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Pest Control in Developing Countries

While western agriculture has largely come to grips with the need for safe and environmentally responsible pest control, developing countries still have a long way to go.

Third world farmers face huge problems which, until overcome, could see them repeating the mistakes of their western counterparts.

These problems include:

  • Lack of information on crop pests, leading to misuse of pesticides and failure of crops
  • Misinformation from pesticide manufacturers, some of whom are deliberately unloading products that have been banned in the west and encouraging excessive pesticide use
  • Lack of information on applicator safety, faulty and poorly maintained equipment and non-existent first-aid facilities, contributing to thousands of deaths every year.

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Chemigation: the Benefits and Pitfalls

Chemigation is the process of injecting a chemical into irrigation water, which is then applied to a crop or field. The term includes the application of herbicides (herbigation), fertilisers (fertigation), insecticides (insectigation) and fungicides (fungigation).

Chemigation is a method that has been used successfully for many years in certain types of agriculture and is mostly used in conjunction with drip or sprinkler irrigation systems. It has a number of advantages over other types of spray applications, but also some disadvantages.

Advantages include:

  • It is generally much cheaper than other forms of application
  • It provides more uniform coverage
  • Less labour is required

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The Past and Future of Aerial Spraying

Crop dusting or aerial spraying has had a controversial history, due to the high degree of risk it poses to operators and its potential for environmental damage.

The most common planes used for crop dusting are fixed wing planes such as the Cessna, the Grumman Ag Cat and the Piper Pawnee, but today it is not uncommon for helicopters to also be used for spraying. Prior to this, converted World War II surplus bi-planes were employed such as the Tiger Moth.

Crop dusting aircraft tend to be of simple, rugged design, often with spraying systems built into the wings and pumps powered by wind turbines.

Because of their greater potential to cause spray drift than ground-based sprayers, crop dusters always fly as close to the crop as they can (often as low as 15 feet) and this, along with all the obstacles they must avoid such as power lines and farm buildings, often contributes to accidents, of which there have been many over the years.

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A Brief History of Agricultural Pest Control

Almost as long as agriculture has been in existence, humans have used pesticides in one form or another to protect their crops from insects and diseases.

The ancient Sumerians used sulphur to control insects and mites, the Chinese used arsenic and mercury and the ancient Romans used salt to control weeds.

However, the majority of agricultural pest control was through crop rotation, tillage and the variation of sowing times.

It was after World War II that the use of chemical pesticides really took off. The insect-killing capabilities of DDT had been discovered in 1939 by Paul Muller, who received the Nobel Prize for his efforts, and after the war ended, DDT became the insecticide of choice for farmers everywhere.

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Optimal Spraying In Diverse Weather Conditions

Weather conditions can have a big influence on the effectiveness of spray application. Rain, wind, temperature and humidity all need to be taken into consideration before any spraying is done.

Ineffective spray application is not just about wasting money. It also the concerns for the environmental effects of spray drift and run-off.

By monitoring the weather and changing your spray application methods to best suit the conditions, you can achieve more accuracy and less wastage

Wind speed and direction should be monitored at all times (particularly when air blast spraying) and spraying should only be conducted when the wind direction is consistent and the speed is no less than 2 kilometres an hour or no more than 15 kilometres an hour (as a general rule).

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Controlling Fires on Your Property

Bushfire is an inevitable part of life on a rural property. The key to living in a fire-prone environment is preparedness and there are a number of things you can do to minimise the threat of bushfire.

Firebreaks are essential in controlling the spread of bushfire and you should create and maintain fire breaks at least three metres wide around the perimetres of your property, or at least in strategic locations near bushland or heavily-treed areas.

Firebreaks not only stop low intensity fires from spreading, but they also provide access for fighting fires and for backburning. Where possible, take advantage of existing fire breaks such as roads, tracks, railway lines, creeks, dams and rivers.

Methods of creating firebreaks include:

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Safety First When Spraying

Pesticides and herbicides provide agriculture with significant benefits, controlling pests and diseases and allowing us to produce better crops and higher yields.

Unsafe use of these chemicals however, can risk health and even life and cause extensive damage to the environment through pollution of land and water and harm to non-target organisms.

So safety first is paramount when spraying, something which is reinforced by chemical manufacturers on their own labels and through government and EPA guidelines and regulations.

These regulations infer a common law ‘duty of care’ on those who use chemicals to store, transport, apply and dispose of them in a safe manner.

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Spraying Techniques for Orchards

No matter what type of fruit is grown, an orchard attracts a host of pests and diseases trying to eat into your profits. Here are some of the more common ones and some techniques to keep them at bay.

The set-ups employed in orchards for pesticide spraying are usually air blast sprayers (use a normal cone nozzle) and air shear sprayers and rotary atomiser sprayers (designed for controlled droplet application).

Worms and caterpillars love apples and eat into both fruit and the leaves. Treatment involves applying a general insecticide once when buds first appear and then again roughly two weeks later.

Peach borers lay their eggs beneath the bark of stone fruit trees. Their larvae can cause major damage from boring, so you need to get to them before they hatch. A permethrin or carbaryl-based pesticide should be applied when the adults first lay their eggs, followed by another dose a month or so later.

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Spray Set-Ups for Viticulture

When it comes to spraying, grape growers must defend their vines on two main fronts. Pests and diseases abound and are fought with a variety of pesticides. Weeds are the other enemy and must be countered with herbicides.

Universal vineyard pests include a large range of mites, moths, borers and weevils, while some common diseases found in grape vines include black rot, powdery mildew and cane and leaf spot.

Common set-ups for canopy spraying of pesticides in vineyards include air blast sprayers (either low profile or tower), air shear sprayers and rotary atomiser sprayers.

Air blast sprayers apply low to medium volumes, using droplets sized between 30 and 350 microns. These droplets are directed by the fan’s air stream onto the plant. Air blast sprayers displace the air around the plant with the air from the sprayer.

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