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Archive for the ‘Pests and Diseases’ Category

It’s time to test seed cane for planting again

Posted by Ellie McVeigh

Press release: Monday 30 January 2023

HCPSL will start seed cane inspections for growers tomorrow (Tuesday 31 January) for all Herbert growers. This year things will be done a little differently. HCPSL will be using three different methods of testing this season.

SRA’s Molecular Plant Pathologist Dr Chuong Ngo and Translational Research Pathologist Dr Rob Magarey visited HCPSL on 24 January to train HCPSL staff on the new Ratoon Stunting Disease (RSD) testing method called leaf sheaf biopsies (LSB).

A core (otherwise called a leaf punch) is taken from the leaf sheath of the cane plant, mixed with distilled water, and then sent off to the laboratory for analysis. The RSD bacteria weeps from the leaf punch into the distilled water over a few hours and is then analysed.

Photo above – Dr Chuong Ngo, Molecular Plant Pathologist, presents  at the HCPSL training day.

This sampling method is just as accurate as the expressed xylem sap method and both use the quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) test that was made available to growers two years ago by HCPSL. However, the LSB method is more efficient in the field for collection of samples. It can also be done earlier in the year that phase contrast microscopy (PCM) method. The PCM (microscope) method will still be made available to growers, but this method can be less accurate when detecting RSD than LSB and qPCR.

HCPSL staff will only be testing cane that will be used for planting in 2023. Growers will only be permitted to sample one block/variety for every 20 ha farmed. This ruling has been put in place to allow HCPSL staff to get across all farms. There will be no charge for Herbert growers using the seed inspection service.

Growers who wish to undertake a whole of farm RSD survey will be invoiced accordingly. This is not a core HCPSL service. Full farm RSD surveys will only be undertaken mid-year after all seed inspections are completed for cane to be planted this season. 

The other change this year is that growers will need to come into the HCPSL office with their most recent farm maps, downloaded from the Wilmar website, to book a seed cane inspection with HCPSL staff. Due to changes at Wilmar concerning data management and security, HCPSL currently does not have copies of grower farm maps and data.

HCPSL is working with Wilmar to gain access to farm data, but new computer systems will need to be upgraded before growers can go online through the Wilmar website to grant permission to HCPSL to gain data access. Both HCPSL and Wilmar apologise for the inconvenience caused and are working together to resolve this matter.

Photo above (Left) – HCPSL field staff expressing sap for a xylem sample.
Photo above (Right) – A leaf punch collected for a LSB sample.

The turnaround time from collection to receiving your results using the LSB and qPCR methods is about two weeks, so growers will need to plan which varieties/blocks they want tested. RSD samples will be processed by both the SRA and Metagen labs located in Brisbane and Gatton respectively.

HCPSL and SRA data have shown that growers who utilise Approved and disease-free planting material will grow on average 11 tonnes cane per hectare (tch) more  than growers who don’t.

Don’t take it for granted that the cane you are planting this year is disease free, get it tested!

Growers are urged to contact the HCPSL office ASAP to organise a seed cane inspection by HCPSL field staff.

To download a copy of the Press Release, view the document below.

Grower’s and HCPSL highlight Herbert rat issue in recent ABC Rural article

Posted by Ellie McVeigh

Earlier this week, ABC Rural reported on rat damage currently occurring in the Herbert.

To read the full article, visit the link below.

Or for more information concerning the permit, please contact: Lawrence Di Bella – HCPSL Company Manager on 0448084252.

‘Millions’ of native rats invade North Queensland sugar cane fields, decimate crops

Rat damaged cane in the Herbert

HCPSL Staff undertake Biosecurity Training

Posted by Ellie McVeigh

Prior to the conference staff from a number of the Productivity boards including HCPSL attended a biosecurity training workshop to become qualified Authorised Inspection Persons (AIP). The training covered the latest in biosecurity legislation and current regulations as well as the General Biosecurity Obligation held by all Queenslanders to ensure they do not spread a pest, disease, or contaminant. The training familiarized staff with their role and responsibilities as inspectors and covered off on biosecurity processes including the inspection of machinery in sugarcane production and the issuing of biosecurity certificates.

HCPSL would like to take this opportunity to remind growers and contractors who work in the sugarcane industry of their General Biosecurity Obligation. If you have machinery or equipment requiring an inspection, please contact the HPCSL office on (07) 4776 1808.

HCPSL hosts the 2022 Combined Productivity Services Group Conference

Posted by Ellie McVeigh

Last week, HCPSL and Burdekin Productivity Services (BPS) hosted productivity services groups from across the industry at the 2022 Combined Productivity Services Group Conference. Productivity groups from Mossman to Isis were in attendance. Over 60 industry agronomists and advisors visited the Herbert to explore news ideas, discuss issues, and share findings.

Conference attendees visiting the Macknade site.

Over 2 days the groups focused on a range of topics, including – diseases, varieties, pests, technology, weeds, and nutrition. Throughout the conference, the groups discussed industry and district specific issues they faced.

Alike to the Herbert, delivering clean seed was a key triumph and core focus for many productivity groups. While RSD, pigs and rats were highlighted as common issues across various districts.

Initial presentations became the catalyst for extensive group discussion around methods for managing RSD and the effective delivery of clean seed. Conference participants then visited the Macknade site, where varieties were spotlighted. Presenters from across the industry explored the use of genomic selection, molecular markers and tissue culture.

During Day 2 the management of 2,4-D drift, weeds and feral pigs was discussed by the groups. Finally, the benefits of nutrient management, soil sampling and soil health were explored in detail by presenters. Presentations highlighted the need for soil health in sustaining productivity. To conclude the conference, interested participants were invited to visit the HCPSL hot water tanks at Victoria Mill.

Presentations and discussions from across the 2 days proved widely beneficial for all in attendance. HCPSL thanks all productivity groups and industry professionals who attended the conference and shared knowledge, contributed ideas and engaged in robust discussions.

HCPSL would like to acknowledge the following Sponsors of the 2022 Combined Productivity Services Group Conference – Wilmar, Nufarm, SRA and Burdekin Productivity Services.

Press Release: PERMIT GRANTED TO USE RATOFF® FROM HELICOPTER OR DRONE

Posted by Ellie McVeigh
Photo above: Rat baiting of sugarcane with a drone in the Herbert 2022.

HCPSL was notified by CANEGROWERS on the 1st of December 2022 that the Permit to Allow minor use of a registered Agvet Chemical Product for the control of Australian Native Ground rats in lodged sugarcane crops has been granted (permit number PER92695) on the 30/11/2022. The permit is valid for the period 30 November 2022- 30 November 2027. It allows aerial application of RATOFF sachets into lodged cane from a helicopter or drone.

There are now 2 permits in place for rat management that have been approved in the last 2 months:

Conditions under the APVMA permit:

The HCPSL Company Manager would like to thank Mick Quirk (CANEGROWERS) who coordinated the permit submission documentation and meeting with key governmental staff concerning this matter.

For more information concerning the permit, please contact: Lawrence Di Bella- HCPSL Company Manager on 0448084252.

Photo above: Helicopter rat baiting in the Herbert region 2022.

Supporting agencies:

Download a copy of the Press Release here:

Press Release: PERMIT GRANTED TO CULL NATIVE RATS

Posted by Ellie McVeigh

HCPSL has been granted a Damage Mitigation Permit (permit number WA0047339) on the 11/11/2022, for the culling of rats in Herbert sugarcane fields from the Queensland Department of Environment and Science (DES).

Under the permit Herbert River canefarmers will be permitted to cull the Grassland melomys (Melomys burtoni) and Cane rat (Rattus sordidus) found in sugarcane fields. The registered rat baits available to the industry are Ratoff® and Racumin®.

Conditions under the permit:

The HCPSL Company Manager would like to thank Rod Nielson (HCPSL staffer) and Mick Quirk (CANEGROWERS Brisbane) who have assisted with the permit submission documentation and meeting with key DES staff.

For more information concerning the permit, please contact Lawrence Di Bella- HCPSL Company Manager on 0448084252

JCU Student, Ethan Waters Receives awards for his innovative work into RSD detection.

Posted by Ellie McVeigh

Congratulations to Ethan Waters the winner of 2022 C.N. Barton Medal for best JCU engineering thesis seminar. He received the award on Thursday evening of the 27th of October at JCU. Additionally, Ethan was the runner-up for the Engineers Australia | Institute of Engineering Technology Student Seminar Competition QLD Finals for Software, Electrical & Electronic Engineering. He received the award on Wednesday night, the 19th of October, at the Engineers Australia office in Brisbane.

Ethan was the James Cook University representative, presenting his thesis on “Sugarcane Health Monitoring and Ratoon Stunting Disease (RSD) Detection with Freely Available Multispectral Satellites”.

Ethan thanked Engineers Australia and the Institute of Engineering Technology for hosting the events. He also thanked his JCU supervisors, Mostafa Rahimi Azghadi and Carla Ewels, for their guidance and the team from HCPSL who assisted him with his studies.

Ethan will continue to work (as a JCU student) with HCPSL staff to progress the research he has undertaken into RSD detection.

Once again congratulations Ethan, your dedication and hard work has paid off.

Download a copy of the Press Release below:

Shed Meetings October 2022: Rat Management

Posted by Ellie McVeigh

Recently, HCPSL held a series of Shed Meetings across the district. Due to the number of rats and significant crop damage across the Herbert, rat management was a key focus of these meetings. The HCPSL team discussed developing an Integrated Rat Monitoring Approach to effectively manage the pest in the Herbert.

Additionally, Aaron Davis from Tropwater (JCU) also presented Water Quality information from throughout the district. This data is being collected as part of HCPSL’s Project CaNE.

The meetings were well attended in all locations. Thank you to all growers who attended, HCPSL values grower feedback and discussion on these important issues.

For further information on the topics discussed at the recent shed meetings, please contact HCPSL (07) 4776 1808

Press Release: IT’S TIME TO RAT BAIT YOUR CANE CROPS BEFORE THEY ARE GONE!

Posted by Ellie McVeigh

High numbers of rats and significant crop damage has been observed across the Herbert cane growing region in the past few weeks.

Large areas of devastated cane have been observed in the Abergowrie area, with rat damage now starting to occur across the district.

Rat damaged cane

Because of the large crop to harvest this year and the late finish to the harvest season, growers are urged to monitor fields yet to be harvested for rat activity.

As a part of an Integrated Rat monitoring approach, rat baiting can be considered. HCPSL has been working with the Queensland Government Department of Environment and Science and CANEGROWERS Brisbane to secure an aerial rat baiting permit, for use in the Herbert cane growing region.

HCPSL proposes to have a series of shed meetings to discuss the rat issue and several other topics on the following dates:

10th of October        6pm Bambaroo Rural Fire Brigade Shed

11th of October –      7am HCPSL Macknade office

                                    6pm Long Pocket Finn’s Hall

12th of October –      7am Stone River CWA Hall

                                    6pm HCPSL Ingham office

To achieve a coordinated approach to the rat issue, growers are urged to attend the meeting in their relevant area (if possible). A coordinated approach to rat baiting is now being proposed.

A severely rat damaged cane block in the Abergowrie area.

RSVP:  For catering purposes and to have your farm maps available for the meeting, please phone 47761808 if you will be attending.

LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING YOU AT THE HCPSL SHED MEETINGS.

To download the Press Release, view the document below.

PRESS RELEASE: JCU student is working with HCPSL to try identifying RSD using satellite technology

Posted by Ellie McVeigh

Ethan’s Story:

My name is Ethan Waters, I am in my 4th year for a double bachelor’s in electrical engineering and data science. I am currently conducting my honours thesis with the goal of detecting RSD with the satellite sentinel-2. I am in the process of developing a free prototype program that will inform farmers which of their blocks likely contain RSD. This will allow them to make more informed decisions to prevent the spread of RSD, increasing yield and profits for farmers. The benefit of using large scale imaging with a satellite is the ability to analyse an entire farm for RSD at the same time, rather than relying on a limited number of samples. Therefore, this will provide a more accurate indication of whether a block contains RSD than sample testing.

Brief Methodology Explanation:

Sentinel-2 is a multispectral satellite which captures the reflectance of different waves, including those that cannot be seen with the human eye. A number of different vegetation indices will be calculated for each satellite image and used as an input to an algorithm I develop. I am specifically interested in vegetation indices that look at moisture and water retention of plant matter, given that RSD reduces water retention. 

Above: JCU Student, Ethan Waters.

Future Plans: 

Demonstrating a successful prototype would provide strong grounds to apply for a number of grants and investments into sugarcane research to identify and prevent disease. This will help growers in the industry increase yield and profits. 

We need your help!

HCPSL staff will be contacting growers over the next few days asking for permission for Ethan (JCU student) and HCPSL staff to access your farm data to undertake this study. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.

If Ethan is successful in identifying RSD using satellite imagery, it will greatly assist growers better understand and manage the disease.

For more information on the project contact Ethan Waters on 0435 626 685.

Download a copy of Press Release below.

HCPSL