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Research projects

Here are some links to research projects we work on and partners we are involved with.

New knowledge about some of our most under-studied pest and beneficial invertebrates

Predicting when and where invertebrate pests will reach high densities and cause damage to result in yield loss in grain crops is a challenging task. This is partly due to a lack of fundamental knowledge on where each species is common, when they are likely to attack crop plants, and the seasonal factors that influence outbreaks. This project, involving partners in CSIRO, state governments, and the University of Melbourne, will generate new knowledge about the life-cycle and biology of pest and beneficial species across southern and western regions, to better manage these species into the future.

Portuguese Millipede; a new pest of grain crops
Portuguese Millipede; a new pest of grain crops

The project team will deliver recommendations around timing of monitoring and management for certain pest species, and scenarios where beneficials are likely to provide a real benefit to pest management. This project is funded by GRDC (CSE00059).

The main questions we are addressing are:

  1. When do I need to watch out for these pest species?
  2. When do I need to control them?
  3. What can I do on my farm to protect and support beneficial invertebrates?

More information

 

Africa cassava whitefly project: Identify factors driving cassava whitefly (Bemisia tabaci) outbreaks in East Africa

Over the last 20 years there has been a marked increase in frequency of outbreaks of the invertebrate pest, whitefly complex, Bemisia tabaci, in the cassava growing regions of East Africa.  The cassava whitefly vectors a range of plant viruses that have caused widespread damage to cassava, a staple food in many households. Whilst significant effort has gone into developing virus-resistant cassava varieties, there has been no effort focused on the vector which alone is able to reduce yields by 40%. This failure threatens the current USD$50 million that is being invested in cassava variety improvement in Africa. Solving the whitefly problem will therefore have a substantial direct bearing on the successful development, application and long term sustainability of cassava production in Africa.

cassava is a staple food for families in East Africa
A new project is investigating an damaging pest of cassava which is a staple food for families in East Africa

A team of CSIRO researchers, in partnership with scientists in East Africa, will carry out ecological field work in cassava production landscapes to elucidate factor(s) that are driving this marked increase in cassava whitefly abundance. Our team is part of an international project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation through the Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich (that will run from 2015 to 2019). We will examine the relationships between host plants, cassava disease incidence, B. tabaci species and their natural enemies across contrasting cassava production landscapes. We will test if the amount, temporal availability and sequence of host plants in a landscape influence the abundance of whitefly in cassava. Contact Sarina Macfadyen if you would like more information.

 

National Invertebrate Pest Initiative

The National Invertebrate Pest Initiative (NIPI) brings together scientists from state government departments, universities, farmer groups and CSIRO to address pest management issues in the Australian grains industry. Our next meeting is being held in conjunction with the Australian Entomological Society  47th AGM and Scientific Conference in Melbourne 30th Nov. – 1st Dec. 2016. Contact Sarina Macfadyen if you would like more information.

 

PhD student Katherina Ng – Movement of beetles in fragmented temperate woodland landscapes

Katherina Ng is a PhD scholar at the Fenner School of Environment and Society in the Australian National University. In 2014, she commenced a landscape-scale project in the Lachlan catchment to study the movement of beetles in fragmented temperate woodland landscapes.  To maintain biodiversity in agricultural landscapes, millions of dollars are spent annually on restoration and establishing corridors. However, the effectiveness of these conservation actions hinges on assumptions about how animals move through these landscapes.

Her project aims to answer 3 key questions:

  1. What type of changes in the matrix (human-modified, non-habitat areas) can promote or limit beetle movement?
  2. What are the habitat needs for beetles to persist in agricultural landscapes?
  3. Can we manipulate the matrix to encourage movement?

By understanding how matrix structure and quality affect beetle movement, this research will lead directly to land management recommendations. The data collected will tell us whether recently planted corridors can improve connectivity for animals, or whether temporary changes in the matrix, such as fallowing or applying woody mulch, can promote movement without taking land out of production. More broadly, her research findings will inform land-use planning, policy development, restoration and stewardship payments that help maintain productive and ecologically sustainable agricultural landscapes.