Keeping out stink bugs

with Bill Webb
Bill Webb Feed Solutions

Two ships carrying hundreds of unwanted and dangerous hitchhikers have been refused entry to New Zealand ports and that’s great news.

The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug were found on the large cargo vessels and the used vehicles they were carrying in February, and that’s one bug we most certainly don’t want here.

As well as being a serious threat to kiwifruit, the bugs also attack grapes, apples, citrus and stone fruit, maize and many other valuable crops.

While the bug hasn’t so far established in New Zealand, it’s been found many times at the border and ports so it’s a matter of when, not if, it gets through.

That’s why we all have to be on the lookout for it – and not just farmers and growers but the public too because homes could be infested also.

Over winter, these bugs gather in large numbers in homes, where they’re an unsightly and smelly nuisance. They can’t be easily treated with insecticides and they emit a pungent odour when squashed, making them hard to remove.

Call immediately

The adults are about the size of a $1 coin and have white banding on the antennae, alternate black and white markings on the abdomen, and eggs that are light green, barrel-shaped, and found in clusters of 20-30.

Ministry for Primary Industries has a fact sheet and videos on its website to help identify the bug and differentiate it from similar local species:

If you think you’ve found one, catch it and call MPI immediately on 0800 80 99 66.

Doesn’t matter if the bug you report isn’t the nasty one – it’s better to be safe than sorry. If these bugs become established because someone didn’t bother to report them, then we will all be sorry. They will be very hard, if not impossible, to eradicate because New Zealand has a climate which suits their life cycle.

Speaking of climate – it’s been pretty weird again, but one thing about the warmth and the rain is that the grass is growing.

Pasture renovation

So with plenty of feed available, it’s a good time to select those marginal, poorly-drained or pugged-up paddocks for renovation. Fix the drainage, remove old stumps, spray out and apply capital lime and fertiliser after doing a soil test.

Check with your seed merchants for the best grass species for your farm and region. Don’t be tempted to buy what’s cheap because it’s just not worth all the effort to get a poor result. Some of the new rye grass species are more persistent, pest-resistant and yield well, so check them out.

Re-grassing now will bring the paddocks back in the grazing rotation before winter.

Maize harvesting is about to start, which will mean more farm machinery on the roads. It’s also time for farmers to prepare their sites for maize silage. The farmers with the least waste are those who get their preparation right before the silage arrives.

This includes making sure the site is well-drained, but away from water courses to prevent leaching. Vehicle access to the stack must also be well-formed and not full of holes.

Pukeko damage

Last year’s stack cover can be used to line the pit, but don’t put it back on top. Use a new cover without holes, place tyres or sand bags close together on top, and seal the edges. Protect the site with fencing to keep stock away, and don’t forget the rat baits. If pukeko are a problem, cover the stack with netting to keep them off. Too often silage is spoiled by pukeko pecking holes in the cover.

The wet weather is causing me a few headaches leading up to harvest, but the maize has grown well and we are expecting yields to be slightly above forecast so we still have some to sell – but get in quick.

Demand for hay and silage has slowed with the grass growth, but the wise farmer is looking ahead to next summer when they will need extra supplements to fill the gap left by PKE.

Fonterra’s restrictions on the amount of palm kernel which can be fed means farmers will need something else to keep their cows milking, and at that time of year, maize silage will not be available until late February.

So now’s a good time to think ahead and have extra maize silage on hand for the summer of 2019 to ensure your cows are well-fed and you don’t face penalties from feeding PKE.


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