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SPATIAL ECOLOGY OF WHITE GRUBS IN AGRICULTURAL LANDSCAPES DOMINATED BY SUGARCANE: IMPLICATIONS FOR AREAWIDE PEST MANAGEMENT

Final Report Summary - ECOGRUBS (SPATIAL ECOLOGY OF WHITE GRUBS IN AGRICULTURAL LANDSCAPES DOMINATED BY SUGARCANE: IMPLICATIONS FOR AREAWIDE PEST MANAGEMENT)

SUMMARY REPORT OF THE PROJECT.

The project examined how the pest uses a variety of landscape elements in relation to their availability. The research studies mainly conducted in sugarcane fields and natural landscape around aimed at (a) Quantify key landcape elements in pilot sites, (b) Monitor and map beetles/white grubs movements and damage; (c) Collect Data and analyse pest population dynamics and infestation levels and (d) report, promote and disseminate results and findings. The research was conducted mainly with our australian private partner BSES Limited, a leading research institution of the australian sugarcane industry, using their experiment stations. New tools such as radiotelemetry, Satellite images (Remote Sensing) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) were combined to better understand the spatial ecology of D. albohirtum and implement refined pest management strategies in the sugarcane areas. In addition, new competences on spatial ecology and biodiversity conservation through group meetings and seminars were acquired during the project and the return phase in France. During this return phase we were able to participate to group meeting (IOBC, Spain) and Belgium. All this has broadened our knowledge and expertise on pest management, particularly the integration of the landscape scale in control strategies. Finally, the project has had an impact on sugarcane growers and the industry to make them aware of refined pest management (pesticide use mainly) to be used in high infestation risk areas instead of applying insectide in sugarcane areas that were not damaged. This successful technology and information transfer to the industry was done through different groups of local farmers, the BSES extension department and the Australian Society of Sugarcane Technologists (ASSCT).
Other results include : Remote sensing satellite images in pilote sites available (Cairns/Meringa, Burdekin and Mackay), images of infestated areas processed via texture analysis and classification; images of classified landscapes (forest, corridors, non crops, pasture, riparian vegetation, private gardens...) GIS maps of surveyed farms and damage levels, several trajectories of beetles identified from sugarcane to feeding trees via telemetry (active tag/microtrasmitters placed on beetles), database on feeding trees that were used by beetles for feeding activities and infestation of sugarcane fields; training of BSES staff on ecology of beetles and the use of telemetry.
We are convinced that the beetles doesn't fly very far as the distance from feeding trees to highly infested patches in paddocks is quite short (in 90% of cases). This is probably why the most damaged areas are the ones located along the river banks or creeks where feeding trees are plenty. I have the impression that if these areas were treated by strips from the vegetation edge to 200 metres inside the sugarcane paddocks, this would significantly reduce the damage on a wide scale.Conclusion: the project has allowed researchers and farmers to make progress in the understanding of the ecology of this key pest for sugarcane industry particularly in north Queensland. By accurately identifying risk areas, for instance, it would be possible to better target interventions and reduce the field pesticide treatments that are conducted throughout Queensland. This will be especially important since sugarcane plantations are located close to the Great Barrier Reef, whose protection is essential. in addition, GIS and mapping of grub damage have shed substantial light on the bioecology and management of the sugarcane greyback beetle. Since grub damage is easily seen from the sky (helicopters, light planes, drone) it is perfectly suitable to generate GIS maps. Convinced by the interest of this approach, SRDC has recently funded a new project called ‘Remote sensing to implement an effective pest management strategy for canegrubs’ (BSS342), involving GIS specialists from the Queensland Government (DEEDI). The project runs from 2012 to 2015. We are happy this IOF project has allowed to generate other ideas of projects and new fundings.