Grain growers and agronomists in northern New South Wales and southern Queensland are being encouraged to report swarms of Rutherglen bugs and submit samples of the insect to better inform future pest management strategies.
CSIRO, the University of Queensland and New South Wales Department of Primary Industries are partnering in a Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) investment which is looking to better understand Rutherglen bug population dynamics.
The investment, which commenced earlier this year, will help researchers understand how populations persist in the local environment and why they might suddenly appear in crops.
It will also update management guidelines to minimise the effects of early- and late-season infestations, and provide a risk framework to predict likely infestation from both locally emerged and migratory populations.
CSIRO Senior Research Scientist Hazel Parry says very little is known about the landscape ecology of Rutherglen bug besides that it can be found on a wide variety of plant hosts, including many weed species. The GRDC is investing in research to help fill the information gaps.
“Growers and agronomists have the option to provide up to two kinds of information to aid in this research,” she says.
“They can register Rutherglen bug sightings online as part of our current ‘citizen science’ data collection initiative and they can also register to receive a sampling kit to help us collect Rutherglen bugs for DNA analysis.
“Reporting sightings will deliver valuable information which will help the project team to determine the conditions that might be associated with Rutherglen bug flights.
“The actual samples will give us an insight on where the Rutherglen bugs are coming from within the landscape and how related the populations are, particularly in terms of whether they are traveling long distances or if they are local populations.”
Rutherglen bugs have the ability to build up to high numbers over summer and can cause plant dehydration or death if they gather on crop seedlings. They can also cause economic losses at harvest through seed damage and contamination.
GRDC Crop Protection Manager – North, Vicki Green, says Rutherglen bug is a major pest because viable control options available to growers are limited.
“Previous research has identified Rutherglen bug as the biggest issue facing summer grain production in the northern region,” she says.
“By better understanding when Rutherglen bugs move and how they survive, we may be able to interrupt those patterns and reduce the reliance on in-crop control methods.”
To register a Rutherglen bug sighting, or to sign up for a DNA kit, go to https://research.csiro.au/agroecology/rgb-project/.