With the cotton season well and truly in full swing, many university students are swapping lecture theatres for the paddock and are out in force with their beat sheets and sweep nets looking for bugs.
Bug checkers play an important role in many cropping industries, but none more so than the cotton industry.
Goondiwindi farm consultant Tim Richards said bug checkers were the “eyes” for agronomists.
Mr Richards, who is also a director at Michael Castor & Associates, said bug checkers help agronomists get across large areas to build a better picture of insect pressure.
“The experienced agronomists can’t get across all their paddocks, so these guys have got to be their eyes in the paddock,” he said.
“What we try to do is come up with a system that they can collect data that we can then use to make the correct decision for the grower.
“That information that comes back is very important for us to make the correct decisions and they’re so important to us.
“Those decisions can be the decision to make a very expensive spray, or bigger decisions to miss a spray which can cause yield loss and crop loss, which will cause economic loss for the grower, so they’re a big part of making sure the crop gets through to full yield.”
Sophie Morris, Warratoo, Goondiwindi is heading off to the University of New England, Armidale, next year to study agronomy and said her involvement in the cotton industry was the catalyst for her degree choice.
“When I started bug checking, it made me want to look more into that sort of study,” she said.
“I wasn’t sure livestock or crops, but this made me want to do crops.
“It’s interesting and there’s a lot that goes on; you don’t really realise what’s behind it.”
While bug checking is a right of passage for many agriculture students, country students that have headed to the city to pursue other fields also return home and get involved.
Makaela Brown, Goondiwindi, is studying physiotherapy through Bond University, but said she returns home at this time every year to go bug checking.
“When I left school I was thinking about doing ag, and I was really interested in it,” she said.
“It’s like six years later and I’m still doing it.
“I love it, it’s interesting, I learn heaps of new stuff. I just like being out here.”
Bug checkers in the Goondiwindi region attended a CottonInfo workshop at Morella, Boggabilla, to learn about the proper bug checking process from Queensland DAF entomologists Paul Grundy and Jamie Hopkinson.