A potato tuber moth monitoring project that started in 2016 thanks to InteliGro and Stef Stephan from Stephan & Seun Potatoes joined efforts is currently an integral part of the service and decision-making support that the above-mentioned company offers in the South-African Sandveld potato-production region.
The project has since gained tremendous impulse under the leadership of André Erasmus, InteliGro’s potato technical specialist.
“Monitoring is a partnership between nature and agriculture,” explained the experts involved in this project. “The pheromones that female moths secrete to attract males for mating, are synthesized in laboratories and packaged in ampules. The ampules are placed in traps and, as they attempt to get to the sources of the pheromones, male moths are caught in the traps. A trained monitor counts the moths once a week and the information is used to plot trends and take informed decisions by answering questions such as: Is the pest present or not? Are numbers at a level where action needs to be taken, or not? Are current measures successful, or should application intervals, dosages, and/or products be adjusted?”
The monitoring project has proven itself over and over again in the irrigation fields of the Sandveld and is now ready to support potato farmers in other parts of the country.
Cited by HarvestSA, Stef Stephan’s said that over the past four years, the value of actual measuring has given him more confidence and his weekly preventive spray programs have started to make room for spray programs that are 100% based on the weekly monitoring results.
“We now use fewer chemicals than before to control potato tuber moth, because monitoring has taught us to spray at the right time and only when the insect pressure is high. This InteliGro initiative is a massive success story and a step in the right direction,” he added.
In turn, André Erasmus mentioned that there over four seasons in the Sandveld experienced the value that monitoring can add to yield and quality.
“We know the extent to which it helps to refine producers’ risk management and reduce their input costs due to the decreased use of crop protection products. The time has come to share the benefits of integrated pest management with producers in other potato-production regions of the country,” he explained.
A Tech Platform for Weekly Monitoring
In collaboration with Cropwatch Africa, InteliGro presents a technology platform that allows the weekly monitoring data to be captured and shared electronically with producers. The platform also creates the opportunity for a wider variety of information, such as satellite images, weather data, and application details, to be gathered. Referencing this information will in the future enable producers to fine-tune decision-making and record-keeping on the farm.
Without pest control products, it would be impossible to produce enough potatoes to meet consumer demand. Traditionally, potato producers follow a strict, preventative spray program to protect their crops. This approach is important, especially to ensure effective disease management. However, with insects such as the potato tuber moth, a more calculated approach is possible.
Although several registered options exist for the effective control of potato tuber moths, cracks are starting to appear in the armor of some of the available active ingredients. If the correct strategy and products are not used, the potato tuber moth can destroy an entire potato crop.
According to Potatoes SA, an average of 6% of potatoes that reach South Africa’s fresh-produce markets are downgraded. Monitoring and more effective strategies can significantly improve this situation.
South Africa uses approximately 60,000 hectares for potato production.