When you are producing such a wide range of crops, including avocados, custard apples, mangoes and lychees, like John and his wife Cassie do, having a holistic program of chemistry that works together is critical. It means that, particularly in wet years like 2022, John can best manage the high pressure of pests like fruit spotting bug, monolepta beetles and tea red spider mites, or diseases like phytophthora and anthracnose.
This is why in 2022, John agreed to host an on-farm trial where a range of products from Bayer were tested in a whole program approach.
“Through the trial we tested a range of Bayer products, not only for pest and disease control, but also the health of the trees and the health of the soil,” John says.
“So, it's a full program approach of numerous products in a field setting. And ultimately, we wanted to be part of that trial, so that we can benefit as growers, as can the industry as a whole.”
The grower-applied trial was set up on a two-hectare block of Shepard avocados, with Bundaberg-based Bayer Territory Business Manager, Lore Saupp-Saunders, assisting John during the season.
“We had the idea to establish what we called a Satellite Farm Trial here at Makhoma Farms, to basically put a range of the Bayer products into a spray program to cover the entire season,” she says.
“So, we put in SIVANTO® prime as an insecticide, as well as Luna® Sensation and Serenade® Opti as foliar-applied fungicides. And we also put in the Serenade Soil Activ, which is our new to the Serenade family product, to put on through the under-tree sprinklers to colonise roots.
“The overall idea was to demonstrate the capabilities of our Bayer product range to assist in growing quality avocados.”
The trial was established with an adjoining grower standard, where John applied a standard spray program.
“In the trial, we applied two back-to-back SIVANTO prime sprays 21 days apart for spotting bug control early on, because of its safety to pollinators, also to see the effect on beneficial species,” Lore says.
“Then we followed up with quite an early spray of Luna Sensation during flowering, which was possible because it’s a bee safe product. It can be an important timing around flowering, early in the fruit set, just to protect the fruit, which so far hasn’t been able to be done with other fungicides available.
“We then rotated the Luna Sensation with the Serenade Opti as a fungicide during the crop cycle.”
Having seen real impacts in the field, John says the performance of the products has been very impressive.
“We've seen reduced fruit spotting bug damage in the orchard from using SIVANTO prime, as well as a smaller negative impact on beneficial species like spiders and assassin beetles, and we've also seen smaller numbers of tea red spider mite in the orchard,” he reports.
“We also applied Serenade Soil Activ through the fertigation system, and we noticed a very good root flush during the season, which helps with healthy soil, healthy trees, and ultimately better quality fruit.”
Lore says the fortnightly monitoring of the trial through an independent company showed that SIVANTO prime delivered on controlling fruit spotting bug, as well as preserving predatory mites.
“It meant that we didn't have a flare of tea red spider mites at the Bayer trial site, whilst the monitoring data on the grower standard block suggests that the spray program used on that side of the trial basically took out the predatory mites, and therefore the tea red spider mite flared up,” she says.
“Serenade Soil Activ also showed good results after being applied through the under tree sprinkler in the spring root flush.
“Six weeks after application, I took a root sample to submit to the laboratory for qPCR testing, and we had quite outstanding colonisation with Bacillus amyloliquefaciens, strain QST713 to the roots, so Serenade Soil Activ does the job colonising roots.”
John believes the lessons learned during the trial have been numerous, including the importance of a holistic view to managing such a broad production program.
“Being part of this trial has given us a good insight into how we can run a full program with the Bayer products, not only for tree health, but also monitoring beneficial species and controlling pests and diseases,” he says.
“These are definitely products that we would use into the future, especially now that we've seen these real in-field results that will help us with healthy trees, healthy soil and delivering the good quality fruit that we want at the end in the pack shed.”
SIVANTO®, Luna®, and Serenade® are Registered Trademarks of the Bayer Group.