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Lucerne Australia

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.

Announcing a new Executive Officer
By Guy Cunningham, Lucerne Australia Chairman

I am writing to inform you of some personnel changes at Lucerne Australia. Over the past few months, our Executive Officer (EO) Nicola Raymond has relocated to the Riverland. Nicola has been a dedicated EO for our organisation over the past five years and has continued to build a great platform in which we continue to grow. We really appreciate her commitment to the position, and are very grateful for everything that she has achieved. Nicola will continue to support us in the next few months, and in other capacities as required into the future.

Following a rigorous recruitment process, we are delighted to announce that Jenny Aitken will officially commence in the EO role from mid-May.

About Jenny Aitken

Jenny is based on a property just outside Keith and her career has been centred on people – radio broadcasting, organisation, apprenticeship monitoring, community development, parliamentary liaison - dealing with people with a large range of issues and priorities. She is reliable, highly organised, able to work as a team member or independently as needs dictate and above all, discreet in business matters.

Jenny was raised on a grain and contract harvesting enterprise and has a good understanding of rural issues. One of her roles in radio was as a rural reporter, so she has a breadth of understanding of the agri-political scene. She has also been a media adviser to The Hon Barnaby Joyce MP, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources. 

She also has a good understanding of how the lucerne seed industry operates and its importance to both this region and the wider areas of Australia. Jenny is passionate about agriculture, looking forward to her role and meeting members and stakeholders. Nicola and Jenny will work closely in the next few months to ensure that our organisation achieves a smooth, orderly transition. 

I hope you will join with me in thanking Nicola for her work and welcoming Jenny into her new role.

See their profiles here

Join Lucerne Australia in 2016-17

Why not join Lucerne Australia this year? There are a number of benefits to being involved in our forward thinking peak industry body, which puts the priorities of our grower members first and foremost. Lucerne Australia:

  • Provides single, industry representation for Australian lucerne seed growers.
  • Represents the best interests of lucerne growers in all aspects of production.
  • Continually informs members of all aspects of the wider use of lucerne.
  • Support valuable research, training and development activities.
  • Facilitates co-operation with government departments and industry stakeholders.
  • Provides networking opportunities for the exchange of views and discussion.

As a member, you will receive access to up-to-date trial and research information specific to the lucerne seed industry. Become a member of Lucerne Australia today. Click here to download the form.

Lucerne Australia’s 10-day USA Study Tour, from 26th July 2016

Lucerne Australia is arranging a study tour to the USA in July-August.

This unique opportunity is exclusively available to grower members and partners – who are all warmly encouraged to participate – and individual associate members of Lucerne Australia.

This tour will take you to the most significant lucerne seed growing regions of the USA, travelling from Los Angeles to the Imperial Valley, Fresno and Sacramento in California, and to Boise in Idaho. It also includes a day trip to the breathtaking Yosemite National Park in California.

With visits to lucerne farms, processing facilities and research centres, this tour will enable you to gain a greater understanding of lucerne seed production in the USA, one of our biggest competitors but also one of our largest trading partners. In addition, there will be a variety of additional visits to farms with different enterprises including horticulture, red meat and grain.

This tour promises to be an amazing opportunity for those involved in the lucerne seed industry and other mixed enterprises, with a program that will appeal to all grower members of Lucerne Australia, as well as those directly involved in the industry.

This tour promises to deliver a stimulating environment with a dynamic group of like-minded growers and associate members of Lucerne Australia. Participants will enhance knowledge and understanding of agriculture in the USA, whilst enjoying excellent hospitality and leisure time in the height of the USA summer.

Register Now!  Download form here

Brochure and Program here

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.