Chemicals beat organics in sweet potato pest trial
BUNDABERG produces 80% of Australia's sweet potatoes market so it is no wonder CQU scientists have been working hard to find a way to stop a parasitic worm known as nematodes.
The group of researchers gathered at Windhum Farms, The Hummock, to reveal the results of an 18-month trial.
Root-knot nematodes are the most frequently observed and damaging plant-parasitic nematodes in vegetable production, affecting crops like sweet potato.
CQU professor of horticultural science Phil Brown said about 18 months of planning and research had gone into working out a solution.
"Nematodes are a real problem for the sweet potato industry," he said.
"The superficial damage to the outside of the plant means supermarkets reject them."
He said about 18 months ago the pesticide that was working to reduce the parasites was banned, and so researchers stepped in to help find a new way.
Half of the region's 50-60 sweet potato growers turned out to hear the results.
Five nematicides were tested: three chemical products, Nimitz, Vydate and Tervigo, and two organic products, Compost-Aid+Soil-Set and Nemguard.
"Nimitz and Vydate were the most effective products used in the trial, with Tervigo also performing well under conditions where high levels of damage were not expected," Prof Brown said.
"There is further work to be done in understanding what causes variability in performance of nematicide treatments between sites, so growers should use the trial results as a guide rather than a recommendation."
Sharon farmer McCrystal Agricultural Services owner Russ McCrystal was at Windhum to hear the results and said it was great to have the information on hand.
"Replicated research and problem solving is always important in out industry," he said.
The results confirmed Mr McCrystal has been going in the right direction with controlling the pest.
He said one of the top two controls was not available commercially and that was an issue that would have to be looked at.
But the other was being used on his farm now.
"For the last six to 12 months, we've been using one of the two better ones."
He thanked the researchers for providing the valuable information and said it was vital for the agriculture business.
The project's head researcher, Dr Jady Li, was supported by CQU research students Karli Groves and Upamali Peiris and Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries technical officer Rachael Langenbaker.
Prof Brown said the Australian Sweetpotato Growers had supported the research and the organisation was proactive in using research to drive development of sustainable production practices for the industry.