Dowling AgriTech is a well-established seed potato producer based near Mount Gambier in SA. While pest control is important for all vegetable growers, it is probably even more crucial in seed potato crops because any loss of control could have a multiplier effect if infected seed potatoes were sent out as the source of commercial crops.
It goes without saying that a successful company like Dowling AgriTech has very strict quality control to make sure the seed potatoes it supplies are totally free of infestation or infection, and that all starts with great pest control in the growing season.
Peter Ellison, the company’s General Manager and Senior Agronomist, explained that in years where there are massive flights of green peach aphids, it can be a challenge to keep on top of them as existing control methods are faced with unusual population pressure.
“Aphid control is absolutely critical for seed potato production, because all aphids – and especially green peach aphids – are very effective vectors of diseases, with the main threat being potato virus Y. Any level of infection will be magnified from the seed crop into the commercial, daughter crop.”
While the Dowling AgriTech team was pretty happy with the insecticides they were already using, the chance to use a new ‘aphid specialist’ was too good to miss.
“Versys was launched in a year with very high aphid pressure. When we’d first heard about it, we pricked up our ears and the trial data was very convincing. Despite having a robust, very full IPM program, we were under a bit of pressure. So Versys ended up being the first foliar product we turned to, because of its fast knockdown and good residual control.”
The results were so dramatic that Peter worries people will think he’s exaggerating.
“It sounds a bit cheesy, but I just didn’t believe how effective it was. I walked through the crop and couldn’t find a single aphid. But at the same time it was overrun by ladybirds and red and blue beetles – the beneficial insects.
“We rely on choosing soft, selective chemistry that will protect those beneficials that are controlling other pests as well. So Versys ticks a lot of boxes.”
While Peter was very impressed by such high levels of control and selectivity under such exceptional pest pressure, he says the best thing about Versys is that it combines two benefits usually only found in separate products.
“Often a product will be good at knockdown or at residual control, but they’re not normally good at both. Versys almost replaces a couple of products in the rotation because it is doing everything from the same drum.”
Not that the Dowling AgriTech team will be discarding other products. They are only too aware that using a mix of chemistry from different groups along with other management techniques is essential.
“We’re not just going to hammer a single product, no matter how good it is. That’s the way to break them. Green peach aphids are particularly quick to develop resistance, so it's great to have Versys as another tool in the toolbox. Especially when it turns out to be an extremely effective tool that I’m very happy to pick up.”
Dowling AgriTech also contracts out seed-potato production. “I’ve been recommending Versys to all our contract growers,” Peter says, “and they’ve been reporting success too. One of them used it in their commercial potato crop as well and said they’d walked through and it was just littered with dead aphids.”
Peter is certain Versys will be an integral part of his company’s program from now on, but he'll be hoping not to see it put to such an extreme test again. “I’m just glad we had such a good product to turn to in what was a tough season”, he says. “It’s not every day a new product impresses you so much that you call the rep to tell him how good it is!”