New move on the old guard

Two of Australia’s biggest banana growers, the MacKays and Howes, have trialed a new insecticide developed to control weevil borer and rust thrips while avoiding mite flare-ups.

Bayer in August registered the stem-injectable product, Movento Energy, for use in bananas after seven years of development.

It follows on from the company’s Bayer’s Confidor Guard product which had been associated with mite flare-ups when applied in hot and dry conditions.

Both products contain imidacloprid but the new product has a second active ingredient, spirotetramat, as an extra measure for rust thrips.

Tully grower Stephen MacKay said the family’s banana farms had been trialing the new product over the past couple of years, following an approach from Bayer.

Plots were established where current practice could be compared with use of the new product.

There was also a control plot with nil treatment.

Mr MacKay said the product was not inducing mite flare-ups and this meant there was greater flexibility in the timing of applications.

“We can apply it any time throughout the year that suits the crop stage and cycle, and it also seems to protect the plant from any pest stresses, so it’s definitely what we’ve been looking for,” Mr MacKay said.

“The spin off benefits from a healthy plant are that it can definitely withstand lots of other things that may attack it like funguses, so we can then move forward with less applications in other areas.”

He said that while the application process was time consuming, the technique was good and the tree only needed to be visited once.

The MacKays are intending to use the product extensively on their farms.

On the Atherton Tablelands, Howe Farming ran similar trials for 12 months.

Andrew Irving from Howe Farming said the most obvious effect was an increase in both the evenness of the crop and in the growth of the follower plant.

“We really noticed an increase in the internodal growth between the leaves and the evenness of those followers that were treated with the product.”

Mr Irving also believed the new product would increase flexibility in application timing and avoid problems with mite flare-ups when conditions were dry, hot and dusty.

“For us the main benefit will be that we will be able to chase the follower at a more accurate size according to the label – traditionally we’ve always applied the product through the wet season, to minimise mite flaring.”

Howe Farming is intending to use the product across their farms and will keep evaluating it, perhaps leaving some blocks out for comparison.

Innisfail-based Bayer CropScience Senior Development Specialist Darren Westerhuis said miticide still needed to be used on high-pressure sites.

“Movento Energy does not have any impact on adult mites, and is not going to stop them laying more eggs, so under high mite-pressure you really need to apply a miticide to bring mite numbers back to a manageable level at, or around, the time of Movento Energy application.”

Innisfail agronomist Dave Doolan, said rust thrips control would be an important benefit.

“Rust thrips is the predominant pest in bananas, it’s a hidden one because you don’t really see a lot of it until the fruit gets into the sheds, and then farmers are throwing out literally barrel-loads and sometimes truck-loads of fruit through rust thrips’ damage.

Tablelands agronomist Tim Heath, of GT Ag Services, said the product’s “one pass” application may help with block management, especially now that the industry has more on-farm biosecurity requirements.

“Growers want to go into one particular block, do the work required, clean down machinery and people, and then move on to the next block,” he said.