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Lucerne Australia

Lucerne Australia Study Tour to US

18 participants took part in the tour visiting lucerne farms,processing facilities and research centres in California and Idaho. Go to our FaceBook page for pictures and details.

A full report will be provided to members at the Annual General Meeting on 21st September in Keith.

New Seed Wasp Research Project

June 2016
Lucerne Australia (LA) is delighted to announce that we have been successful in obtaining funding for a seed wasp project, which will be funded through Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) using levies collected by pasture seed industry growers.

Three organisations –CSIRO, SARDI and NSW DPI – were approached to provide a quotation and method for managing seed wasp over a three-year period, with some guidance by LA.

Following a detailed review of the proposals and face-to-face interviews with RIRDC and LA representatives, NSW DPI has been successful through the process.

A total of $89,300 will be invested in this project from May 2016 to January 2019.

1) The Research

The research has three parts:

a) Literature Review
A comprehensive literature review. This will summarise existing knowledge on the biology of seed wasp, as well as other insect pests that are biologically similar. The resulting report will encapsulate the current body of knowledge of seed-feeding wasps and other insects, their natural enemies, and known methods for control. This review will also yield candidate primer sequences for developing a PCR test for presence/absence of seed wasp DNA.

b) Capture data about behaviour, develop PCR test
Capture data about the emergence timing, flexibility thereof, and regional variation in seed wasp populations. Live wasp adults and larvae from lucerne paddocks in NSW and SA will be collected. Some samples will be used as a source of DNA to develop a PCR test for seed wasp. Live seed wasp will be used to establish viable glasshouse/CT populations. These will determine how seed wasp pupation and emergence time respond to changes in temperature and humidity, and whether these patterns are consistent between populations (e.g. in SA vs. NSW wasps). The research will also determine whether non-lucerne weeds e.g. clover/trefoil, can act as reservoir hosts for seed wasp.

c) Soil sampling to predict numbers
In order to develop an approach to predicting seed wasp populations, soil samples will be collected from growers and several methods of quantifying infested seeds will be trialled. These include light microscopy, PCR testing, and a qPCR, which will identify both seed wasp and its hyperparasites simultaneously. The project will also analyse seed wasp dispersal through rubidium chloride labelling. Analyzing population genetic data of seed wasp in SA and NSW will reveal this species’ dispersal patterns on a larger scale.

2) NSW DPI Project Managers

The primary Project Investigator will be Dr Ainsley Seago. She is a skilled insect taxonomist and is highly experienced in conducting scientific literature reviews, extracting, amplifying, and analysing insect DNA and working with growers in primary industries. Co-Project Investigator will be Professor Gurr, who has led numerous pest management projects in Australia and overseas. He is well known internationally for his work on applied insect ecology and developing ecologically based strategies to combat pests.  His chief contribution has been to develop strategies for promoting the activity of natural enemies of pests.

3) Background to the Project

Seed wasp is attracted to flowering lucerne and lays eggs into immature seed in young developing lucerne pods. Therefore, it needs lucerne pods to complete its lifecycle. Financial losses from seed wasp have been accepted over time due to a lack of understanding of the damage it does. But chemicals are not a workable option as its lifecycle is extremely short with continued overlapping generations e.g. all lifecycle stages are present at the same time.

Seed wasp was prevalent in the 1990s in seed growing regions but its presence declined in the 2000’s due to a greater understanding of the importance of sanitary practices, as recommended in RIRDC-funded research done by James De Barro.

However, industry experienced an extreme population of seed wasp in 2012 due to the widespread presence of unmanaged lucerne during the wet summer conditions in the year prior. Acres of lucerne were permitted to set seed and the consequence was a seed wasp population explosion with yield losses in excess of 80 per cent.

Then in 2015, another large population of seed wasp emerged. Losses were high in some regions, but it impacted on the seed processing to an event greater level than in 2012. More seed needed drying to keep it safe. Screens, length separators, chutes and scarifiers blocked up faster than in 2012 and screens needed thorough cleaning. 

Many agronomists in south-east SA now recommend growers lock-up paddocks for seed production earlier in an attempt to minimise damage. Although many growers heed that advice they have concerns that it will come at a yield penalty.

4) Next Steps

LA is proud to have lobbied hard for investment in a seed wasp project over the past 18 months as this has been a major industry issue for many growers in recent years.

We will be approaching industry stakeholders – growers, service providers, agronomists and seed cleaners – in coming months, to participate in a major industry workshop in spring 2016. This will include a major presentation by Dr. Ainsley Seago on biology, control, and history of seed wasp, the outcome of the literature review and the approach for steps two and three of this project. There will also be regular progress reports and a final report extensively delivered to industry in early 2019.

We are confident that this project will deliver outcomes to more effectively manage this pest, and potentially lead to better control, and eventual reduction and even eradication of this pest.

Summary: 2016 Annual Trial Site Field Day

Over 65 grower and associate members attended the 2016 Lucerne Australia trial site field day, which was held in the Keith region of South Australia on Wednesday 10th February.

Members travelled by bus to the “Evaluating alternative fertilisers to maximise lucerne seed yield trial” site at Brecon Proprietors. Here, they received the latest results and participated in a crop walk.

On return to Keith, members received marketing updates from PGG Wrightson Seeds, Heritage Seeds, Seed Genetics International and Naracoorte Seeds about the forthcoming season. Seed Services Australia also provided an update on their certification services.

Attendees also heard from a number of associate member machinery dealers who showcased their products and services, including Kuhn, Bogballe, Sulky and Agrex Kylo spreaders. The event concluded with casual drinks and networking.

2016 Trial Site Day  2016 Trial Site Day2016 Trial Site Day  2016 Trial Site Day

Final Report: RIRDC-funded Drop-tube Irrigated Lucerne Seed, Herbage Yield and Plant Persistence Trial now available

Lucerne Australia received RIRDC funding to undertake a five-year 'Drop-tube irrigated lucerne seed, herbage yield and plant persistence trial' near Keith, South Australia. This evaluation was important to obtain and compare lucerne herbage and seed yield data using the current best practice system of drop tube irrigation.This research is ultimately targeted for uptake by lucerne seed growers, but other beneficiaries include advisors, agronomists and other service providers.

This research evaluation was conducted over a five-year period. Key findings show the performance of lucerne seed varieties under this system between 2010 and 2015. The major funding for this project has been through the RIRDC pasture seeds program with other funding by Lucerne Australia and industry contributions by seed marketers. This trial has recently been completed and we thank everyone who participated. Click here to view the final report.

Sprayer Set-Up Day Summary

Lucerne Australia held a 'Sprayer Morning’ at Bordertown Football Club on Tuesday, 28 October from 8-11am.

It included special guest speaker Bill Gordon from Lawrence in NSW, who has spent over 20 years working in the area of pesticide application technology area, with the last 12 years as a private consultant focusing on training, extension and research. Bill currently works with industry to discuss application technology and to raise awareness of strategies to improve efficacy and reduce spray drift across Australia.

Following the presentation, the group were showcased a range of self-propelled spraying equipment from Case, Hardi, Goldacres and John Deere, courtesy of local machinery dealers O’Connors, Wickham Flower, Farmers Centre and Wise Farm Equipment.

2014 Lucerne Australia Sprayer Set-Up Day  Sprayer Morning at Bordertown Football Club for Lucerne Australia
Bill Gordon discusses Sprayer technology at the LA Sprayer Day  Lucerne Australia Sprayer Day 28/10/2014
Lucerne Australia Sprayer Morning  Lucerne Australia Sprayer Set-Up Day October 28 2014


 Mission Statement

To be a focal point for the industry and to enhance the Australian lucerne seed industry.