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Writer: Geire Kami Published: The West Australian Countryman 16 October 2014
A mild winter coupled with a warm dry spring can be factors which impact canola crops in Western Australia.
Invertebrate pests like aphids can be hard to control and require a high level of visual and biological monitoring.
Despite best efforts they can appear to descend on canola crops virtually over night.
But farmers find an unusual ally in the battle against these soft bodied armies in the transverse ladybird (Coccinella transversalis).
Department of Agriculture and Food entomologist Svetlana Micic said surveys have found that the transverse ladybird is the most common species found in canola crops.
In recent years, and with corresponding weather conditions, canola farmers in Western Australia have seen an astronomical rise in the presence of aphids at the time of flowing and podding, impacting bud formation and delaying the onset of flowering, wilting stems, reducing pod sets, and setting off flower abortion.
Typically dense on growing tips, aphids suck the sap out of plants and leave crop yields compromised if unmanaged.
Harvest drawing to a close brought to my mind an historical Western Australian event of epic proportions.
Post WWI, many Australian and British veterans took up parcels of land to farm in remote regions of Western Australia. When the Great Depression hit in 1929 farmers were encouraged to plant more wheat, with the promise of government subsidies (which never came). Inland drought and annual migration bought wildlife to the grain rich paddocks and livestock soaks of marginal farming land around Campion and Walgoolan.
Some of the older people in WA still recall the emergency in the second half of 1932: a wildlife plague that reached such desperate levels that troops were called to (f)arms, under Major G.P.W. Meredith of the Seventh Heavy Battery of the Royal Australian Artillery, Sergeant S. McMurray, and Gunner J. O'Halloran. Settlers familiar with war requested Lewis automatic machine guns to brace themselves against the tide of 20,000 ravenous Murchison yallabiddies (more commonly known as the humble emu).
The Great Emu War was so hotly anticipated that a Fox Movietone cinematographer was dispatched to capture the battle for the rest of the world, but in what can possibly be described as a comedy of errors, the war against the emus was largely thwarted, not only by the desultory behaviour of the emus themselves, but also by weather, equipment, and morale.
© Geire Kami. All Rights Reserved. Australia 2017.