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Using drones for pest management

They are an efficient method of releasing beneficial mites in vineyards…

 

Millions of native Australian mites have been unleashed via drone across vineyards in the Orange region, in New South Wales.

Using drones for pest management
  • Chris Boiling
  • 2022-02-22
Millions of native Australian mites have been unleashed via drone across vineyards in the Orange region, in New South Wales. Their mission? To attack unwanted pest mites that can have a devastating effect on vines by stunting growth and impacting photosynthesis.
The NSW Government and Wine Australia are funding the project, which proves it is a time- and cost-effective method.
Darren Fahey, viticulture development officer at NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI), said: “DPI has been going out and inspecting vineyards with local growers, and we noticed there was a lot of mite damage. Coming out of the drought, pest mites had dominated the populations and the beneficial mites had been reduced so it was decided to run a project that would build these native species back up.
“While biological pest control is nothing new, the application for releasing native mites has become much easier thanks to the use of drone technology.
“In the past, vignerons would have to manually apply the mites by hand, but with the drone they can finish a 7ha paddock in 45mins, saving them time and money.”

NSW - bug canister
NSW - man drone canisters
NSW - drone
NSW - flying drone
NSW - drone canisters
This six-blade drone was used to unleash more than 150,000 mites per cannister as part of the $40,000 two-year programme.
“The mites come in a form of vermiculite and are then carefully released from the cannister as the drone flies low across the vineyard,” Mr Fahey said. “Even if the mites fall to the ground, they know where their food source is, so they’ll travel straight up the vines and get to work.”

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