Archive for the ‘Pests and Diseases’ Category

2024 RSD Testing

Posted by Rod Neilson

Book your seed inspections with HCPSL now.

Grower seed inspections, including RSD sampling, will commence in early March (weather dependent) and continue until 3rd May. After the 3rd May seed inspections and RSD sampling will be limited to field staff availability.

Important Information;

For bookings or further enquires please contact the HCPSL Office on 4776 1808.

Update on Rats

Posted by Rod Neilson

HCPSL recently invited staff from Animal Control Technologies Australia (ACTA) to view firsthand the impact of rats on the current cane crop and the effectiveness of RATTOFF®.

ACTA and HCPSL staff inspected fields across the district on Wednesday the 9th of August, where RATTOFF® had recently been applied, to view the efficacy of the product and its impact on rat populations. Upon inspection of treated blocks, sachets were found to be opened by rats and there was a significant decline in rat damage of the treated blocks.

Photo above. A RATTOFF® sachet which has been opened by a rat found in a field treated in the Abergowie area.

RATTOFF® contains zinc phosphide coated grain which is quite stable while kept dry in the original packaging. Once eaten by the rat, the chemical quickly reacts with its stomach acids to produce poisonous phoshine gas in the gut area.

Research trials indicate that around 3-5 treated wheat granules were sufficient to kill a rat, hence one RATTOFF® sachet has the potential to kill about 50 rats. It is also not uncommon to find unopened sachets in a treated field due to of the sheer number of sachets applied and the effectiveness of the bait to control rats.

Rats will commonly drag the sachets back to their nests. Not only does this remove the sachets from above the ground but it also delivers the product directly to the colony.

The RATTOFF® sachet consists of a cellulose membrane that is water resistant and will break down over time due to UV light (usually occurring after 28 days). The sachet protects the treated wheat grains and provides a protective covering in the event of rain.

Research conducted tested the effect of additional palliative attractants to improve RATTOFF® uptake by rats. The trial results were non conclusive but found in some cases that the addition of linseed oil did improve uptake. ACTA and HCPSL staff also inspected young ratoon crops and found significant rat activity in these blocks. Growers are urged to start controlling rats in these crops to avoid carry over to next year’s crops.

Photo above- A rat borrow in young ratoon cane.

When treating a field, two applications of RATTOFF® may be required. The first application will target those rats above ground, not the lactating mothers and their young that are in borrows. A second application is required approximately 6-8 weeks later when these lactating mothers and the new juveniles come to the surface to feed. Growers should monitor the blocks to see if further applications are required.

RATTOFF® is registered for use in sugarcane crops through both ground and aerial applications by drone or helicopter. The recommended application rate of the product is 100 sachets per hectare or a total of 1kg of bait material per hectare. Racumin is the only other registered bait for use in sugarcane with baits needing to be placed in a bait station. The recommended rate for this product is 60-100g per bait station.

Photos above. Registered rat baits for use in sugarcane

Other anticoagulant baits are not registered for use in sugarcane because they pose a risk to wildlife and persist for long periods in most animals.

An Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program should be considered to reduce rat numbers. Rat baiting is only one tool in a farmer’s toolbox when other measures are not effective in managing rat population numbers. As a part of an IPM program consider the following: managing weeds in crop, drainage lines and riparian areas by mowing, spraying and revegetation of habitat areas.

For more information concerning the management options of rats please contact a HCPSL Extension Agronomist on 47761808 or refer to the HCPSL website.

Photo above- Fresh rat damage in sugarcane.

Project Squealer™ UPDATE: Use of GPS/Radio tracking collars and “Judas” pigs

Posted by Ellie McVeigh

HCPSL Press Release

Project Squealer™

An initiative of the Hinchinbrook Community Feral Pig Management Program.

“The Queensland Feral Pest Initiative (QFPI) provides funding from the Queensland Government and Australian Government.” QFPI Round 6- has funded this project.


Use of GPS/Radio tracking collars and “Judas” pigs

The Hinchinbrook Community Feral Pig Management Program (of which HCPSL is a partner) was successful in obtaining funding to investigate “Novel technologies to better manage feral pigs.”

As part of the project, the research team has commenced activities using GPS/Radio tracking collars fitted to “Judas” pigs. It is envisaged that the use of GPS tracking in conjunction with drone and thermal imagery cameras will allow the program to gain a better understanding of feral pig population numbers and habitat utilisation.

The project team has been working with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) to seek approval to fit tracking collars to 3 female feral pigs. A permit to Use Animals for a Scientific Purpose has been sort and approved via a Grant of Application for Registration as a Scientific User- HCPSL (Reg No. SUR001683). DAF have appointed Dr. Bronson Logan (DAF veterinarian) to assist the project team with fitting the GPS/ radio tracking collars.

The project team have purchased the following items with the research funding in preparation for the fitting of the GPS radio tacking collars:

A few weeks ago, 3 young sows were captured within the Hinchinbrook Shire, fitted with SIR GPS/radio tracking collars, and released back into the wild at 3 different locations. These feral pigs will be now tracked over the next few months to gain useful information on their movements, the habitats they utilise and hopefully congregate with other pigs with which they will roam, to provide intelligence on how to manage the larger populations of feral pigs across the district. It is intended that the information collected will provide strategic insights to program partners on how to better manage feral pigs across the shire longer term.

Photo above- One of the feral pigs captured and fitted with a SIR GPS/radio tracking collar waiting release back into the wild.

We are asking the farming and general community to assist the research project by not deliberately killing these collared pigs if it can be avoided. If you have accidentally killed one of the pigs fitted with the SIR GPS/radio tracking collar, we ask that you please return it to the Hinchinbrook Shire Council office (contact phone numbers are on the collar) or the HCPSL office, so that our valuable research can continue. Your assistance would be greatly appreciated.

If you have any questions pertaining to Project Squealer or the Hinchinbrook Community Feral Pig Management Program, please contact: Lawrence Di Bella (HCPSL Company Manager) on 0448084252 or Matthew Buckman (HSC Biosecurity Team Leader) on 0439005471.

Attention Growers: Soil Test and Pachymetra/Nematode Request Forms

Posted by Ellie McVeigh

Attention Herbert Growers – Please note price increases as of the 1st July 2023.

HCPSL talks Precision Agriculture at the SRA Herbert Field Day

Posted by Ellie McVeigh

Recently, HCPSL GIS Officer, Rod Nielson presented on the Hinchinbrook Community Feral Pig Management Program’s Project Squealer at the SRA Herbert Field Day. The field day featured various presentations and demonstrations from SRA technical staff and researchers, including – An overview of the Herbert Productivity Plan, Imidacloprid research, managing smut issues, and balancing nutrient inputs.

Rod from the HCPSL team, provided Herbert growers with insight into the technology currently being used for managing feral pigs under Project Squealer. Throughout the day Rod also chatted with Herbert farmers on the range of precision agriculture services HCPSL offers.

If you’d like to know more about precision ag, drones or GIS technology, please contact HCPSL on (07) 4776 1808 to speak with Rod.

Senator Hon. James Mc Grath visits HCPSL

Posted by Ellie McVeigh


HCPSL received a visit by Queensland Senator the Hon. James McGrath last Thursday (2nd of March) to gain a better understanding of the sugarcane industry and activities undertaken by HCPSL.

The Hon. Senator James McGrath was elected to the Senate for Queensland in 2013, re-elected in 2016 and 2022. The Senator is currently the Deputy Chair of Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters.

The Senator met with the HCPSL Company Manager- Lawrence Di Bella and HCPSL Administration Manager- Sue Beccaris to discuss pest and disease issues experienced by the local industry and other company related matters.

HCPSL would like to thank the Senator for taking the time to visit HCPSL in his very busy schedule.

Photo above (left to right): Lawrence Di Bella, Hon. Senator James McGrath and Sue Beccaris.

HCPSL Walk & Talk 2023!

Posted by Ellie McVeigh

HCPSL invites you to the 2023 Annual Walk & Talk!

Date: Wednesday 15th March 2023

Commencing: 8am to 2pm

Location: HCPSL & SRA Office, 181 Fairford Road Ingham

Displays and Presentations will include:

RSVP Friday 10th March:

For catering purposes, please RVSP to HCPSL on (07) 4776 1808


Posted by Ellie McVeigh

Come along to hear from multiple presenters, on a variety of topics surrounding pesticide use. All growers welcome to attend.

Wednesday 22nd February 2023

From 8:30am to 3pm

Herbert River Crushers Clubhouse, Sportsman Parade, Ingham.

For catering purposes, please RSVP by Friday 17th of February to the HCPSL Office on (07) 4776 1808.

Project CaNE™ is funded by the partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

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