Integrated pest management (IPM) in broad-acre farming

We got started in bees in 2008, where Danny Lefevre did some trials for YP Alkaline Soils Group. We did 28 hectares, and had bees on probably a third of that paddock, and there was quite a significant yield increase, probably up to a tonne. But since then we grew them in 2009 and 10 and last year 2011 and definitely the yields have been very consistent. We’ve been consistently going around that 3.9, 4 tonne a hectare. However the last five years our approach to chemicals, insecticides have changed.

An Integrated Pest Management Approach

We’re trying to take a lot more of an IPM [integrated pest management] approach, whereas before that we were probably a lot of pre-emergents and a lot of applications of chemical were just chucking in an SP just for preventative, and the cheapness of it all. But realizing now how much damage that was doing to a lot of beneficial insects on our farm. So, now we pay a lot more attention to monitoring with the bees being introduced to the beans we make sure that we try to have everything under control before the bees go in, and we talk closely to our beekeeper. If it does pop up and something’s happening that we need to apply an insecticide or something goes wrong they can be removed, and we can easily go and put that chemical out and reintroduce them afterwards.

To help out our bean phase, we’ve sort of been picking varieties that are a lot more tolerant to Chocolate spot, have a lot better disease ratings, and this allows us to go through the season without having to travel over them with a boom spray or treat them.

The bees we can’t contain them exactly in one paddock, so we have to be quite weary of what is growing around us and also in our own rotation. It’s quite easy to control our own rotation, but our neighbors, we don’t get much of a choice what our neighbors grow. But often if there’s canola growing right alongside the bees are quite favorable to fly over the fence, so that’s just something we have to be quite weary of.

Avoiding Insecticides if it Makes Sense

One way of helping the situation is to apply an insecticide early in the morning when the bees aren’t active. Generally needs to be, usually you see bees don’t get active, fourteen and fifteen degrees they start flying around the place, so if we know that there’s a job to do, if we can do that early in the morning around that paddock, we should have a lot safer outcome.

Over the last 5 years we’ve certainly been applying IPM to the whole farm, taking a farm approach, not only the beans but all our other crops, and probably an important part of that approach is identifying the insects, knowing the good ones from the bad ones. Just trying to create thresholds that we’re comfortable with. Sometimes it’s not the easiest thing.

It’s quite easy to go and spray an application of SP or something and wipe them out and sleep easy, but while doing that we’re certainly having a pretty negative effect on all our beneficials and I think if we keep going and knocking our beneficials out, as the years go on we’re just going to find our self in a lot worse position.

We’ve seen all the resistance in a lot of other chemicals and we certainly don’t want to go down that line with insecticides.