On the 14th of October the Sustainable Agriculture team ran a Soil Health Webinar for our Building a Buzz for Beneficial Bugs project!
Building a Buzz for Beneficial Bugs is a State NRM funded project involving the promotion of beneficial insect biodiversity as an alternative to pesticide usage in Horticulture. We have two demonstration sites in the Midwest Horticultural Region showcasing specific insect-attracting flowering plants sown adjacent to horticulture cash crops. Local horticulture growers and Conservation and Land Management TAFE students and staff joined us in person at the Geraldton Multipurpose Centre, where we were spoilt with beautiful ocean views! Carnarvon and southern growers also joined in via Zoom.
Joel Williams was our first speaker, videoconferencing in all the way from Toronto. Joel Williams (Integrated Soils) is an independent soil-plant educator who discussed the benefits of companion plants for improving soil biodiversity and for horticulture pest management. He discussed examples of Canadian horticultural growers who planted strips of flowers and herbs inside their growing tunnels to repel pests, attract beneficials, and to increase groundcover. He also discussed how this can work in broadacre systems!
Geoff Gurr was our next speaker of the day, videoconferencing from Charles Sturt University. Geoff is a plant-insect ecologist who did the research that this Building a Buzz for Beneficial Bugs project is based on! He discussed the best companion plants to attract beneficial bugs; including Sweet Alyssum, Cornflower, and Buckwheat. Which we had sown at our demonstration sites adjacent to the cash crop. He also shared with us ‘SNAP’ (shelter, nectar, alternate pests, and pollen). SNAP is the key to attracting beneficial insects to your crop. Geoff shared some interesting videos and factsheets of this research and examples of the work they have done with eastern growers, which have been linked at the bottom of this article.
Bao (Sun City Produce) a local horticulture grower also ran through the operations of his farm and current pest management system. Bao releases beneficial insects and has limited sprays. He also talked about his Nuffield Scholarship, where he traveled to different countries to learn about beneficial insects and sustainable land management practices.
We hope to secure the demonstration sites again for next year to showcase how specific insect-attracting flowering plants sown adjacent to cash crops can attract beneficial insects to predate on pest insects and/or repel the pest insects, whilst also adding beneficial biodiversity to the soil. Geoff is very eager to fly over and chat to our horticulture growers in person next time! So keep your eyes peeled for ‘Building a Buzz’ events next year!
Thank you very much to everyone who attended either via Zoom or in person, and special thanks to Joel, Geoff and Bao for sharing all your soil and bugs wisdom with us!
Links to factsheets and video:
Boosting beneficials in your vegetable crop:
How does the surrounding landscape affect beneficials on your farm?: https://www.horticulture.com.au/growers/help-your-business-grow/research-reports-publications-fact-sheets-and-more/How-does-the-surrounding-landscape-affect-beneficials-on-your-farm/
Beneficial Bugs: Good bugs keeping pest insects at bay (Landline video): https://www.abc.net.au/landline/beneficial-bugs:-good-bugs-keeping-pest-insects-at/12122402