Newsletter Spring 2005

Welcome to the Spring Update from Serve-Ag Research

“The more elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate.”

In a world where internet, email, text messaging and voice mail are the norm, the danger of communication breakdown can easily be overlooked. In our industry, the need for staff to be geographically dispersed creates some challenges. While technology is an integral part of communicating, there is still a significant need for face-to-face interaction within our organisation and with our clients and industry partners.

We must all allow time to visit others, to develop relationships and to encourage greater sharing of knowledge. Too often we do not realise how much we know, or do not know, until we start to interact more closely with others.

In this new financial year, Serve-Ag Research will be facilitating more visits between members of our national and international team, and we welcome our clients and partners to take opportunities to visit us. I am confident the rewards for all will be considerable.

Ian Macleod, Managing Director

Aphid news

Evaluation of new insecticides and application methods for control of WAA

Woolly apple aphid (WAA) is a significant pest of apples throughout the world. They have the ability to reduce tree vigour and health, prevent wounds from healing, reduce fruit quality and marketability (sooty mould) and are an annoyance to pickers.

The control of WAA in Australian orchards is currently restricted by the availability of effective products, chemical residue levels in fruit, and export requirements.

Dennis Patten (right), from our Tasmanian team, is currently investigating the effectiveness of non-chemical control methods such as organic mulches and trunk barriers. Selected developmental insecticides are also being investigated for their potential to control population explosions in WAA populations, which pose a difficulty for orchard management.

The work is being funded by Horticulture Australia with voluntary contributions from Fruit Growers Tasmania Inc.

Confidor, and potential alternatives, for control of lettuce aphid

Lettuce aphid (Nasonovia ribis-nigri) is a new pest to arrive in Australia. It can potentially devastate lettuce crops and has resulted in many interstate trade restrictions for growers.

Insecticides are likely to play a key part in the management of lettuce aphid. The establishment of efficacy and residue data to support the use of Confidor (imidacloprid) for this pest was critical for the short-term survival of the lettuce industry in Australia.

We conducted eight trials in Tasmania in 2005, to evaluate the efficacy of Confidor, applied at various rates and application methods, for the control of lettuce aphid in head and leafy lettuce. The data generated will be used to support product registration.

Residue trials are also being conducted in Queensland and Victoria to support registration.

Several other developmental insecticides have also been tested, which could become alternatives to Confidor in the future.

‘Bad Aussee’ in Austria!

Stephen Tancred from our Stanthorpe office recently spent 6 weeks in Austria as Team Leader of a Rotary Group Study Exchange. The Exchange had an educational and cultural focus and was funded by the Rotary Foundation with an aim to encourage international goodwill and understanding. Stephen described the exchange as a huge success with the scenery ‘just like the postcards’, the people ‘warm and friendly’ and the food and drink ‘something to die for’.

Stephen is pictured here with the team visiting the Austrian town of Bad Aussee, which was renamed after they visited! Rotary is a major interest of Stephen’s, as it allows him to perform community service and engage with the wider community on a very real level.

Blisters hurting the broccoli industry

Devonport based Dr Hoong Pung recently gave a presentation at the White Blister Workshop in Werribee, and spoke at the 15th Biennial Australasian Plant Pathology Society Conference at Geelong, Victoria, on white blister (Albugo candida) control and alternative fungicides for Sclerotinia management in horticultural crops (research paper).

Hoong is working closely with agribusiness partners and Horticulture Australia Ltd in a new project to evaluate and develop effective fungicide control programs for white blister in Australia. Despite quarantine restrictions on the interstate movement of broccoli and cauliflower plant material from 2002 to 2005, the disease is now widespread on broccoli crops throughout Australia. No fungicides are currently registered for control of white blister on broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and leafy brassicas. Short-term permits have been issued for Ridomil Gold MZ and copper oxychloride for use on broccoli.

Hoong has been working on integrated Sclerotinia disease management for the past 10 years. Her principal studies have focused on: traditional spray management strategies, biological control agents, green manures and biofumigation, and modifying plant environments.

Strengthening our international ties

In June this year, Phillip Frost (third from left) spent a week in France and Belgium as part of a study tour to exchange knowledge on FMC’s herbicides, clomazone (Command and Magister) and carfentrazone (Affinity and Hammer). These products are widely used in Europe due to their environmental and user safety, and also for their suitability in a broad range of crops. Phil visited a number of farmers, distributors and research groups throughout France and Belgium.

Whilst in France, Phil also visited Staphyt, one of our European partners. Staphyt are a large contract research company, similar to Serve-Ag Research, with a network spanning the key agricultural regions of France and several global research partnerships. As Staphyt is such a similar company to Serve Ag Research, discussions about the latest in recording and processing efficacy trial data, GLP residue work, trial equipment and research methods assured us that we were on an even footing with the rest of the world in agricultural research.

Phil found it an invaluable experience to learn about the agricultural systems in Europe. Many thanks to Gordon Cumming and Ian Pegg from FMC (Chemicals) Pty Ltd for organising the trip, and also to Phil’s travelling companions Paul Yeates (Serve-Ag Pty Ltd), Richard Warner (Nufarm Ltd) and Anthony Ward (Crop Care Australasia Pty Ltd) for making the trip such a great educational experience.

Chemical accreditation in NSW

John Seidel is a qualified ChemCert instructor and is currently conducting accreditation courses for farmers. From 1st September 2005, in NSW, all persons who use agricultural chemicals must achieve a specific level of competency in pesticide usage. This can be attained through completion of a two-day course, such as ChemCert, which is valid for a period of five years.

Topics included in the course are national and state legislation, product labels, integrated pest management (IPM), resistance management, occupational health and safety, spray application, environmental safety and safe handling procedures. Farmers are often reluctant to “go back to school” but many find the course informative and stimulating.

John has a degree in agriculture, a Certificate IV in Assessment And Workplace Training and over 30 years experience in the application of agricultural chemicals and providing agronomic advice.

Stripe rust strikes back

This season stripe rust (Puccinia striiformis) is again a threat to wheat crops. Detection of the disease on early sown varieties in the eastern states has raised alarm bells for farmers across Australia. Sightings have been confirmed in NSW at Cowra, on Rosella wheat, and at Grenfell, on Wylah wheat. These early crops act as a source of inoculum for later sown crops, as disease pressure is already high once temperatures become favourable in spring.

Serve-Ag Research is currently conducting seed treatment and foliar spray trials on a range of foliar diseases in cereals, including stripe rust. John Seidel (Walla Walla), Mark Sumner (Perth), Greg Barnes(Mooroopna) and Richard Porter (Adelaide) all have extensive knowledge and years of experience in generating valuable data from foliar disease experiments.

For more information about seed treatment and foliar spray trials, contact John Seidel:

Introduction & registration of new crop protection products for intensive horticulture

Serve-Ag Research is managing a Horticulture Australia Ltd project designed to facilitate the introduction and registration of new crop protection products for intensive horticulture in Australia.

In the last decade, rationalisation in the agricultural chemical (agchem) industry has led to fewer and larger companies. This is a result of a mature international chemical market, the high proportion of less profitable patent expired products, the introduction of genetically modified crops (e.g. Roundup Ready Soybean, Bollgard Cotton), high costs of data generation and expected cost savings through amalgamation.

In Australia, an estimated 80% of the agchem business is ‘out of patent’ products. Australia is considered one of the world’s cheapest markets for agricultural chemicals. With reduced profitability, only major development programs can be financially justified and this generally favours the larger broadacre crops such as cereals, canola, pulses and cotton. Consequently, agchem companies often cannot support the expense of product development for most intensive horticulture.

Historically, herbicides were the compounds every company wanted to discover, but with the advent of GM crops that tolerate very cheap, patent-expired herbicides, the strategic direction of companies changed. Chemical companies diversified into the seed business, and development of insecticides, fungicides and plant growth regulators increased in importance compared to herbicides.

Intensive horticulture in Australia needs to be proactive in identifying suitable products and should raise the priority of development programs for new agricultural chemicals to control pests, diseases and weeds. These products are likely to be specific to the target organism, leading to improvements for the users, the environment and the markets for the protected produce. New, potentially beneficial technologies need to increasingly come from non-traditional sources that will not require extensive data for registration, thus lowering the financial ‘hurdle’ and encouraging smaller companies to be involved in the development of new crop protection products.

For more information about registration of new crop protection products, contact Mike Hanlon: