26 September 2023

No ‘mights’ when drone drops mites for DPI

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The NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) has unleashed millions of native Australian mites and dropped them on pest mites in the State’s Central Tablelands to support the wine industry.

Development Officer for Viticulture at NSW DPI, Darren Fahey said the native mites were released via drone in the Orange area to attack the pests which could have devastating effects on vines by stunting growth and impacting photosynthesis.

“DPI has been going out and inspecting vineyards with local growers, and we noticed there was a lot of mite damage,” Mr Fahey said.

“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,” he said.

“While biological pest control is nothing new, the application for releasing native mites has become much easier thanks to the use of drone technology.”

Mr Fahey said that in the past, growers had to manually apply the mites by hand but, with the drone, they could finish a seven-hectare paddock in 45 minutes.

The Development Officer said a six-blade drone was used to deploy the tiny pest controllers, with each cannister able to unleash 150,000 native mites.

“The mites come in a form of vermiculite and are then carefully released from the cannister as the drone flies low across the vineyard,” he 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,” Mr Fahey said.

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