CROP CHECKING: Sutton Farm's Brock Sutton inspects cherry tomato vines on his family's farm at Lower Tenthill. Brock's father Rick said conditions could make certain pests more difficult to control this growing season.
CROP CHECKING: Sutton Farm's Brock Sutton inspects cherry tomato vines on his family's farm at Lower Tenthill. Brock's father Rick said conditions could make certain pests more difficult to control this growing season. Dominic Elsome

Conditions could cause a spike in pest numbers

THE long, dry lead up to what is expected to be a hot summer has producers worried about the potential for a bad pest season.

Agronomists are warning the conditions could make pests more difficult to control and said tomato growers could be the worst affected.

Lockyer Valley farmer Rick Sutton is planning to grow about 70 hectares of Cherry Tomatoes this season.

Sutton Farms supply chain stores and the central markets of Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne with their produce, and Mr Sutton said the weather conditions were concerning.

"It's drier than usual and that does make certain pests more of an issue to deal with," Mr Sutton said.

"When the conditions are normal you can control them well, but when conditions become extreme, so very dry and hot, that makes them more difficult to deal with."

He pointed to Western Flower Thrip, Two-Spotted Mites and Silver Leaf White Fly as the pests most likely to affect crops this season.

He said while conditions weren't looking favourable, new advances in control methods and expert advice from local agronomists would make the difference.

"There's been a lot of new chemistry become available in the last 5 years and it's much more environmentally friendly and much more pest specific," he said.

"There's very little non-targeted inspects that are affected by the chemistry we use.

"It's very specific to the target pest and it's very safe for the rest of the environment."

Smaller backyard growers and hobby farmers won't be immune to pest problems, but Mr Sutton said their small scale would allow them to have a better idea of what was happening to their plants.

He said the first step to controlling pests was checking crops regularly to catch them early.

"(The pests) are all fairly easy to find if they pay regular attention and look at the plants," he said.

"You've got to check them once or twice every week, just to keep an eye on it and learn what these pests look like.

"And talk to people that can help you about what's the best way to control them."

 

Sutton Farm's Brock Sutton inspects cherry tomatos at Tent Hill Creek
Brock Sutton inspects cherry tomatoes at Lower Tenthill Dominic Elsome

Regular checks key to controlling pests

WITH summer production ramping up in the region, agronomists warn growers need to stay vigilant to keep on-top of pest infestations.

Elders horticultural agronomist Greg Teske said the most important part of controlling pests was catching infestations in the early stages.

"Regular crop checking is the key to managing pests, and that even goes for growers," Mr Teske said.

"They're on the farm all the time - go and have a look, and if all of a sudden they see a high population, they should consult their agronomist and seek advice on what to do."

After a dry winter and with a summer expected, pest numbers could be higher than usual and some pest might be more difficult to control.

"At the moment our main pest is silver leaf white fly, and then we've got to watch out for thrip," he said.

However it isn't a simple task to determine where and what species would be the most prevalent, he said.

"It's very hard to predict what's going to happen," he said.

"In a lot of the cases, one pest isn't a blanket or broadly found in the Valley - you find you get these hot spots of pests in different areas."

Mr Teske said the best way for growers to effectively combat any infestations was to work with their agronomist.

"The old saying is prevention is better than a cure, so there are a lot of preventative products out there," he said.

"Before a pest gets out of hand, growers should work with their agronomist and work on a strategy."