[ASC-media] Media release: Chemical use in greenhouses to be cut by half

joanne.finlay at dpi.nsw.gov.au joanne.finlay at dpi.nsw.gov.au
Fri Oct 27 05:09:24 CEST 2006

NSW Department of Primary Industries
27 October 2006


Chemical use in many vegetable-producing greenhouses could be halved in 
the next three years.

NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) research entomologist, Dr Leigh 
Pilkington, says DPI scientists have identified a number of beneficial 
insects and new reduced-risk chemicals in a new research project.

The project, funded by the horticulture industry, is now seeking to 
accelerate the research to ensure growers gain access to the technology as 
soon as possible.

Among the promising new biological control agents is an exotic ladybird Hippodamia variegata, noticed by Australian vegetable growers to be useful as a beneficial 

A range of native species is also being assessed, including the thrips 
predator Orius armatus, whitefly parasitoid Eretmocerus warrae and predatory brown lacewing Micromus tasmaniae. 

Dr Leigh Pilkington said these and other targeted beneficial insects had 
been identified as natural enemies of key pests such as thrips, aphids, 
whiteflies and mites.

"We know they are useful as biocontrol agents, but we need to test how 
effective they will be in managing pests in commercial-scale vegetable 

Pests like western flower thrips, which attack a range of vegetables, 
including lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes and capsicum, are rapidly 
developing resistance to conventional pesticides.

Dr Pilkington said "growers now have few chemical tools left to fight 
these pests."

In conjunction with commercial operators, the research will compare the 
effectiveness of different beneficial insects, assess their tolerance to 
different temperatures, work out appropriate use strategies and develop 
mass-rearing techniques.

New "softer" chemicals are also to be evaluated to ensure they do not 
affect the effectiveness of the beneficial insects.

A key product currently under development is a new biopesticide based on 
an insect-killing fungal disease that naturally occurs in Australia.

Dr Pilkington said "it's important that the right chemicals are used, at 
the right time, which allows the beneficial insects to keep doing their 

He said in the future, instead of conventional or synthetic pesticides, 
new reduced-risk chemicals are likely to rely on novel pesticides such as 
the fungal biopesticide that will infect the target pest and cause its 

"The idea is to put biocontrol in the forefront of people's minds and to 
retain conventional pesticides for when the industry really needs them."

Dr Pilkington said a range of activities designed to encourage greenhouse 
vegetable growers to introduce IPM techniques are already underway.

"Meetings in the Sydney Basin where the community gathers at a farm have 
been hugely successful, attracting up to 100 growers a day.

"It is evidence of the increasing acceptance of and enthusiasm for IPM," 
he said.

Demonstration farms have also been set up so that growers can see how IPM 
works first hand, and are in the process of developing a web site on all 
facets of IPM for greenhouse vegetable growers in Australia to access.

Dr Pilkington said he was indebted to the groundwork done by his Gosford 
DPI research colleagues Stephen Goodwin and Marilyn Steiner, who are to 
retire at the end of 2007, after years of dedicated research in this field 
for the Australian greenhouse industry. 

The project currently draws together a team of five entomologists and 
technical staff, two PhD students, extension officers and DPI experts in 
plant pathology. 

The research is being supported by vegetable growers through Horticulture 
Australia Limited.

Contact: Dr Leigh Pilkington, Narara, (02) 4348 1953 or 
leigh.pilkington at dpi.nsw.gov.au

Media inquiries: Joanne Finlay on (02) 6391 3171 or 
joanne.finlay at dpi.nsw.gov.au.

Joanne Finlay
Science Communication Specialist
PH: 63913171
Mobile: 0428 491813
Fax: 6391 3199

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