Dr Geoff Gurr

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Professor Applied Ecology

Geoff will be speaking in Session 7. Vineyard health and biodiversity. Click here to see more.

Abstract

This presentation will provide an overview of a new Wine Australia-funded project that aims to provide growers with practical, evidence-based strategies to suppress pests and provide additional benefits. The first plank of the project has involved laboratory experiments to assess the value of nectar from a range of plant species to minute parasitoid wasps (Trichogramma carverae and  T. pretiosum) that are natural enemies of the key vineyard pest, lightbrown apple moth. Some plants that are potentially suitable for use as vineyard groundcovers provided strong benefit to the lifespan, egg production and parasitising capacity of Trichogramma species. The second plank of the project is trialling a number of mid-row and under-vine groundcover plant species to assess ease of establishment and value to growers. Some of the native plants used in the earlier-mentioned laboratory tests are short-growing, prostrate species and were possible to establish in NSW vineyard trial sites though cost of planting material, labour, weed competition and irrigation need to be take into consideration as an initial barrier to set against the perennial, flow-on benefits.  The third plank of the project has surveyed 30 vineyards and the surrounding vegetation to assess whether  the presence of larger native plants, too tall to use as vineyard groundcovers but suitable as shelterbelt or ‘biodiversity island’ plantings or preservation in nearby riparian and woodland habitat patches, provide ‘spillover’ benefits to grapevines by harbouring beneficial species that can check vine pests.

Biography

Dr Geoff Gurr is an ecologist, best known internationally for advances in biological control and the exploitation of insect-plant interactions to develop innovative pest management strategies. He also works on strategies to promote other ecosystem services such as pollination and nutrient cycling to harmonise agricultural production with the natural resource base. The many projects he has led extend from Australia to developing regions such as Africa, Asia and Papua New Guinea. He trained in Britain, completing a PhD at Imperial College in association with Rothamsted Research and the National Institute of Agricultural Botany in Cambridge. He has held faculty positions with the universities of Melbourne, New England, Sydney and, currently, Charles Sturt. He is also Visiting Professor at Fujian Agriculture & Forestry University, where he has been supported by a Thousand Talents award. His more than 200 publications include papers in prestigious titles such as Nature Plants and Annual Review of Entomology. In December 2020, he won Engagement Australia’s award for outstanding research impact. He has been working on vineyard issues since 2000 and is currently leading a program of research covering biological control, soil health and grower attitudes from Charles Sturt University’s Orange campus.