Moving beyond agricultural pesticides

Nov 27, 2013
Moving beyond agricultural pesticides
The need to spray an entire crop with pesticide could be reduced if farmers used fertiliser to lure pests to a certain patch, and directly spray them there. Credit: UGA College of Ag

The smart use of fertilisers could help reduce global dependence on pesticides in agriculture, and slow the trend of pests developing resistance to the chemicals meant to control them, new research suggests.

Researchers at UWA's Institute of Agriculture and School of Animal Biology say developing new pesticides has become too expensive, with companies forced to undertake extensive health and .

An aging workforce in the sector combined with increased labour costs and larger farms means not only are there less chemicals available, but the ways they are applied are also becoming less efficient.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Christian Nansen says his team is looking at ways to stem the reliance on by enabling farmers to manipulate the likelihood of where pests will be.

"That's where the smart use of fertilisers comes in. We want to demonstrate how we can use to create parts of the paddock more likely to be susceptible to pests so we know where to look for them," A/Prof Nansen says.

"Crops become highly susceptible to pests when they are under stress, and can be used as a tool to prevent becoming a problem in certain sections of the field.

"If we don't find them in the places where they are most likely to be, then we don't need to go any further. If they are found, we spray and ensure we get good coverage of the area before they spread to the rest of the crop.

"We want to maintain the high performance of the available pecticides. So we only use them when we absolutely have to."

The team conducted choice experiments where winged aphids were allowed to choose between canola plants grown on different fertiliser regimes.

Researchers say they observed a clear preference for plants that had less fertliser, particularly potassium.

"If we gave them too much or too little potassium, those plants were preferred over the ones that had a medium range potassium.

"And this is very interesting here in WA, where we have large areas of potassium deficient soils. It's already a part of WA growers' strategy to apply further potassium. But they had maybe not thought of it as part of that strategy," A/Prof Nansen says.

A/Prof Nansen says they've received interest from grower groups to expand research.

"It is still at experimental plot and lab stage, but there is plenty of literature out there supporting this innovative approach to insect pest management."

Explore further: Japan's new whaling plan will prove hunt is science: negotiator

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Fertilisers play key role in reducing crop pests

Jul 16, 2013

While "preventative medicine" is well-known in human health, it's becoming a buzz word in crop production as researchers discover how the risks of damage by pests and diseases may increase if crops don't ...

Recommended for you

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.