A new digital tool will help growers make decisions around aphid management and when to act to prevent damage to their crops.
Developed through a partnership between the Foundation for Arable Research (FAR) and Kiwi agritech company HortPlus, the free-to-grower Aphid Tool can be accessed via the Weather and Disease portal on the FAR website.
The tool helps identify periods of time that are most favourable to aphid reproduction, helping growers to make decisions about when monitoring should be undertaken to determine population levels and help guide management actions.
“Early winter is an aphid risk period for cereal crops so this tool is well timed for New Zealand’s cereal crop growing farmers”, FAR senior researcher for cereals Jo Drummond says.
“This new tool provides valuable data that growers can use to make decisions about aphid control measures, such as when to spray, and when spray is not needed.”
In New Zealand, aphids can cause millions of dollars of damage to crops every year.
Aphids are a common vector for plant diseases such as Yellow Dwarf Virus (YDV), which can significantly reduce yield among wheat, barley and oat crops.
The main YDV vectoring species in New Zealand cereals are the bird cherry oat aphid (Rhopalosiphum padi) and the rose grain aphid (Metopilophium dirhodum). These species require temperatures above 5.8C to reproduce.
The data driving the Aphid Tool is sourced from a network of weather stations across New Zealand, which give insight into the environmental conditions for aphid population reproduction.
“If farmers apply an insecticide when risk periods are highest according to the data, rather than using a calendar-based approach, this can also reduce the number of spray applications required. That’s a win for the environment and another key reason we have worked with HortPlus on this tool as one of the many actions underway in support of the industry-wide A Lighter Touch sustainability initiative,” Drummond says.
FAR also has a regional network of monitor paddocks that track aphid and beneficial insect populations.
By using data from these monitor paddocks, combined with the new Aphid Tool, farmers and other growers can now manage their aphid control measures more strategically than in the past, she says.
HortPlus director Mike Barley says partnering with FAR to develop the tool was the obvious choice.
“With the ongoing challenges New Zealand’s growers face, there is a lot of benefit in having insight for pests such as aphids. We will continue to develop the Aphid Tool further to integrate different data sources including aphid and beneficial species population monitoring to provide a comprehensive management view.”