Scientists are investigating novel technologies and management strategies to control insect pests in Australian grain crops through a new research initiative.
The Australian Grains Pest Innovation Program
The Australian Grains Pest Innovation Program – an investment by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and the University of Melbourne in collaboration with cesar – is seeking to develop high impact, sustainable, and scientifically tested pest management options.
Management of insect crop pests can present unique challenges for Australian farmers. Crop losses from insects have been estimated at over $350 million a year across the Australian grains industry and certain pests offer particularly wicked problems when it comes to control.
Key pests like the diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella), redlegged earth mite (Halotydeus destructor), corn earworm (Helicoverpa armigera), and green peach aphid (Myzus persicae) are becoming increasingly difficult to manage due to insecticide resistance, while other pest species are responsible for transmission of damaging plant pathogens that lead to plant disease and loss of vigour.
Key program activities
AGPIP will be focused on developing novel tools to decrease disease transmission and pest feeding impact, forecast pest issues and enhance beneficial and chemical stewardship.
One novel technology under investigation through AGPIP is endosymbionts, tiny micro-organisms that live inside other cells or organisms, which can influence an insect’s ability to transmit crop viruses or resist pesticides, as well as to reproduce.
AGPIP researchers will be investigating methods for manipulating endosymbionts to reduce virus transmission, lower direct feeding damage by aphids, and increase rates of parasitism and predation of key crop pests.
Data-driven tools to identify resistance trends and predict future resistance risks will also be investigated through AGPIP.
AGPIP will map resistance occurrences across Australia and globally, and develop new diagnostic techniques to make identification of resistance easier and more accurate for major insect pests.
A new approach to pest management
By utilising novel technologies like endosymbiont manipulation and improving our ability to predict regional resistance risk, AGPIP has the potential to offer new developments in our ability to control insect pests in grains.
Ultimately, AGPIP seeks to develop more sustainable and cost-effective pest management options, so farmers can feel confident in their pest management decisions and achieve healthier and more resilient farm systems.
Throughout the five-year project, the AGPIP team will be developing resources and tools to ensure our research is useful and directly applicable to Australian grain growers.
The Australian Grains Pest Innovation Program (AGPIP) is a collaboration between the Pest & Environmental Adaptation Research Group at the University of Melbourne and cesar. The program is a co-investment by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and the University of Melbourne, together with in-kind contributions from all program partners.
This article was first published in Leading Agriculture magazine.