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When the growing gets tough …. LOG gets growing

Local scientists to highlight alternative pest-control strategies for growers

The Lockyer Organic Group Inc (LOGI) was formed three years ago by a group of people who are concerned about the quality of the food they eat, and the garden environment in which they grow their fruit and vegetables. This concern extends also to the wider environment and many members are passionate about the bush and wider conservation issues.

These values are reflected in LOGI's aims, which are to promote the ethos of organic growing and issues relating to sustainable lifestyles; and stimulate public interest in these areas.

Dave Grubb of Laidley, is the events co-ordinator for LOGI. "We have a full membership of thirty, but have a data base of over one hundred people who have come along to our many meetings" Dave said, "our 'field days' are usually on the third Saturday of the month with four evening meetings during the year. Our "Organics Information Exchange" evening attracted over fifty people. We welcome anyone who may be interested in organics either as a home garden 'life-style' but also commercial growers."

Dave continues - "Many growers in the area are keen to move away from the chemical quick fix. However, the pests just don't go away simply because a grower may care about the environment. The grower also may wish to find alternative strategies simply because the pests are becoming smarter and the current pot pourri of chemicals is less effective.

Our next meeting addresses these issues. This will be at 6.30pm on Tuesday the 7th May, at the Lawes Campus Club, Gatton College. The speakers, Drs. Pam Pittaway and Errol Hassan, both with international profiles, have a wealth of knowledge and will discuss the alternative pest control strategies that are possible, even within 'non-organic' growing systems." Local growers are particularly welcome. There will be a nominal entry fee of $3.00, student concessions will apply. For further details please contact Dave Grubb on 5465 2017.

Over the past two months the Lockyer Organics Group (LOG) has visited two havens of organic growing. The property of Philip Holznecht at Fernvale and the garden of Myrtle Charteris on Heaton St., Rocklea, Brisbane. Each is an oasis within its own harsh environment. The first being found in the brown of a winter’s bushland landscape, the other a jewel in the concrete and bitumen jungle of suburban Brisbane. Both properties are testimony to the grit and determination of their owners.

In terms of their context the sites are as alike as chalk and cheese. But both illustrate that with commitment, hard work, applied knowledge and learning from one’s mistakes, the harshest block of land can be developed into a productive environment.

The LOG members who visited both during May and June left feeling at once elated and deflated – as one member said,

"What great gardens and people – but they put my place to shame! And I thought I was doing so well."

But none of us should despair, or feel too humbled by the success of others. On the toughest block of land, applied knowledge and an understanding of the characteristics of the site, combined with (yes), hard work and dedication, can achieve results.

And of course don’t forget – when the growing gets tough, the tough get growing!

Members of LOGI will be pleased to hear that Guy and Lucette Urbain have returned from Landsborough. As the founding members of LOG, we are indebted to their commitment to organics and Catchment care. We welcome them home as LOGI members.


LOG – an eventful April and May -
Grafting of natives, and bushfoods evening

As we move into winter things are actually hotting up for LOG (the Lockyer Organics Group).

The last meeting for April saw twenty eight members entertained by Heather Knowles who demonstrated grafting techniques applicable to the propagation of natives. As Heather said – " whilst we are concentrating on natives these techniques are appropriate for exotics as well." Heather demonstrated the grafting techniques on Flame Trees and went on to explain ….. " if you find a tree that is an early or prolific flowerer, you can save a ten year wait by grafting a part of the better tree onto a seedling. The principle applies to all stock, from grevilleas to grapefruit of course."

The LOG members were invited to try their grafting skills. Their success will only be apparent in a few months time, but with no blood spilt all felt the afternoon was a great success.

If any readers would like more information about grafting of Native plants, Heather may be contacted on 5464 1333. As an active member of the Society for Growing Australian Native Plants (SGAP), Heather will be on hand at the Ipswich Show Grounds, for the City Council’s Land Management Expo on Saturday June 3rd . Look for her selling native plants on the SGAP site.

Whilst Heather may have been a hard act to follow, the evening of May 9th confirmed (if confirmation is necessary) that the LOG events just get better and better. Ms Sammy Ringer presented the "Bush Foods" seminar. Sammy is proprietor, researcher, editor and gofer for the "Australian Bush Foods" magazine.

The forty strong audience was treated to an informative and highly amusing evening. Entertainment and organic bush foods – great value. But a word of warning from Sammy …. "Don’t expect your pot of gold from producing bush foods (fruits), we still have problems with both continuity of taste (through selected varieties) and continuity of supply (through sheer supply and demand differentials). Oh - and don’t expect a big feed either!" Sammy passed around a host of samples – ground acacia seed, Tasmanian pepper, dried bush tomato and many more. All with a unique flavour to enhance any dish. "And that I suppose is the essence of bush foods – that is their ultimate value and in the end – the ultimate taste of Oz."

Should you wish to subscribe to the Australian Bush Foods magazine or simply get more information, contact Sammy on 5494 3812

May has been a great month for organics and horticulture in general. LOG must congratulate the organisers of Expo 16 at the University’s horticulture Field site. Those readers who visited the show could not fail to be impressed by the quality of the products and also the innovations on display. It is gratifying to see the move away from the use of chemicals and plastics in horticulture. Note the ‘ESP’ samplers (Environmentally Safe Produce) from the DPI. We at LOG hope that the "powers that be" take note of the number of "alternatives" that are available in the production of our food and fibre. We do NOT need to rely on chemicals to provide food for the planet. Horticulture can be ‘clean and green’ - this was the message that came loud and clear from Expo 16 – providing our minds are receptive to such. The university must also be congratulated on its eye-catching demonstration of the potential use of "renewed water" – treated effluent water (TEW) has come a long way in recent years!

Dave Grubb for LOG


LOG Looks at Local Native Plants

The March meeting (Sat. 25th) of the Lockyer Organics Group (LOG) focused on the propagation of local native plants. The speakers for the afternoon were Ms Kaori van Baalen of the Lockyer Catchment Centre (LCC) and Michael Boland of the University of Queensland, Gatton Campus and currently undertaking work experience with Ipswich City Council.

In his introduction, Michael pointed out that the Residents of urban areas may be far removed from the raw elements of the ‘bush’ and even those who live in rural areas may keep the ‘bush’ at a distance from the home. But we are all part of the environment in which we live and we are all affected by it, directly or indirectly.

He continued .... " there are many reasons for planting local native species in the garden. These include the maintenance of bio-diversity, supporting local fauna through preferred food sources, lower maintenance and water demand. The list continues but the real focus is promoting the values of the ‘bush’ and realising that there are many attractive local species that are quite suitable for all gardens.

Michael is working with the conservation group of Ipswich City Council and in particular is working on protocols for collecting and storing the seed of plants of local provenance. He explained .... "The provenance is the local area in which a plant species grows and may be unique to that area, a plant of the one species growing in the Lockyer Valley, may be genetically different from a plant of the same species growing, say, in Gympie. If we are to attempt to conserve or restore the local flora we must use plants of the local provenance".

Michael’s talk set the scene for Ms van Baalen, who demonstrated seed saving techniques using examples of the local plant species.

In her introduction, Kaori, as Technical Officer (Land and Bushcare) for the LCC pointed out the essential do’s and don’ts of seed collecting (to include also cutting material). Her exhaustive list included of course the legal implications and the need to check with land-owners before entering properties. Interested readers are encouraged to check with Kaori at the LCC office at Forest Hill before any seed collecting foray into the bush.

She also said that it is vital to keep notes of the location, species and description of the plant from which propagation material is taken, and only a small percentage of seed should be removed.

Kaori concluded her entertaining presentation by stating that .... "The care of our environment should start with our own backyards and hopefully extend into the rural areas, which are effectively the river and creek catchments. The health of our environment can be measured by the health of our creeks, their catchment and particularly by the health and diversity of the local, native plants. Organic growing and catchment care are strongly linked."

Over thirty members of LOG listened with interest to the speakers and all moved by the enthusiasm and knowledge of the speakers.

One of the (older) LOG members was heard to say that ... " These speakers are both products of Gatton College – they do credit to the place, they know so much, and they are so young! How I envy them".

Should you wish to learn more about the activities of the Lockyer Catchment Centre and talk to Kaori van Baalen, her number is 54 654 400.

Grubs, bugs and Bob-Cats – LOG looks at insects.


By Tessa Hutton

Well at least members of the Lockyer Organic Group (LOG) can now recognise the Millennium Bug for what it really was – an invertebrate arthropod with piercing mouthparts! LOG’s first meeting of the year (22nd January), focussed on bugs in general and insects in particular.

The question of "Insects – friends or foes?" was put to the group by Dr. Pam Pittaway, (formerly of the University of Queensland, Gatton College now with the National Centre for Engineering in Agriculture (NCEA) at The University of Southern Queensland). Her fascinating presentation was supported by her illustrated notes, which were distributed to the twenty hardy souls who braved the heat of the afternoon.

Pam introduced her talk by suggesting that … "insects have received a bad press over the years, but just like politicians, there are some good ones. And with estimates indicating that there are at least forty million insects per acre, (then add to these the non-insect organisms) it is not surprising that some damage to plants occurs – insects have to feed on something. In fact insects provide the moderating pressure on the Australian bush, replacing the herbivores that existed naturally on other continents."

Although the pressure of numbers is staggering, only 15% of the insect groups contain those that may be considered as pests. The remaining 85% include absolute beneficials that pollinate crops, recycle organic matter (consider white-ants to be re-cycling agents!), are the main food source for many birds and other animals and of course those that eat the pests. This latter group will include the well known ladybird, and their alligator like larvae (comparing shape rather than size!), the alarmingly named, assassin bug – hold one in your hand at your peril, and of course predatory wasps.

Pam enthused over the tenacity of mud wasps and others that will paralyse spiders and Helicoverpa (Heliothus) caterpillars into which the wasp will lay their eggs, safely cocooned in the mud capsule. The poor parasitised spider or caterpillar becomes a living larder for the wasp larvae.

She went on to suggest that … " before we can be sure that damage has been caused by a specific insect or not, we must, like a detective, look for certain clues. This will begin with understanding (not just knowing) the life-cycle of the insect, and also looking at the mouth parts to see what damage they could cause.

"The life history of insects is as varied as it is extraordinary. Some, like grass hoppers, mantids and cicadas, hatch as miniature adults (nymphs) and the outer skeleton is progressively shed as the nymph grows to adult size.

"Others hatch into grubs (beetles) and caterpillars (butterflies and moths) and other larval forms (ladybirds). The transformation from the larval stage, through to the pupa (chrysalis) to the adult means that certain changes occur that determine the arrangement of legs, the sub-division of the body, and more importantly just how the mouth parts are configured."

"Just like the Bob-Cat different attachments will do different jobs. So different mouth parts will determine how the insect, as the larval form or adult, will feed and consequently what damage will occur (in our case to the plant). It is the amount and type of damage that will determine whether an insect should be considered as a pest or not".

Of the potential pest species their mouth parts are arranged to either chew (grasshopper), chew and grind (beetle larvae and adults) or suck via piercing "hypodermic syringes" through which viruses may be transmitted, (aphids, cicadas, assassin bugs and of course mosquitoes).

"Investigate the damage, then you can find the culprit" said Pam, " a small hand-lens is invaluable along with a good book on insects. And don’t be fooled by the ladybirds – the large, orange, 28 spotted ladybird and its offspring, are quite definitely on the hit list – in our garden it’s the number one pest of tomatoes and curcubits."

The second part of this riveting presentation focussed on control methods that are compatible with the "Organics" ethos.

"As we all know, there are so many alternatives to chemical sprays" Pam continued. "The best way to minimise damage is in fact to grow healthy plants. Insects can detect unhealthy ones, which have a chemical imbalance (similar to our immune system being upset) – and such plants will succumb more readily to insect pests."

Another strategy to reduce insect "foes" is to encourage "friends" – whether predatory insects or birds and this is best achieved by diversity in the garden, as all good growers know – avoid large areas of single crops (mono-cultures) and plant adjacent shelter plants for the beneficials – permaculture gardens do just this (see LOG’s next meeting). Insect predators are attracted and a concentration of pest species will not build up. Full, deep mulching also helps to promote diversity at the lower levels of the crop (the soil phase) and this will help to reduce the pest pressure where larval and/or pupal phases are in the soil where they may be eaten or parasitised or infected by soil pathogens. This would help to reduce fruit fly and many of the beetle pests. Combine these strategies with others such as traps and physical control, then you will limit, but not eradicate the pests.

Pam pointed out that …. " most growers, whether home gardeners or commercial can tolerate some damage – it is the threshold of acceptability – economic or aesthetic – that is important. But please don’t forget – if you kill all the caterpillars you’ll have no butterflies."

On balance it would appear that there are more insect "friends" than "foes" – but as with all reporting it’s usually the baddies that get into the news!

The topic was then opened to the members for discussion and questions – both lively and stimulating. One of the group reported on his "at home" experimentation with fruit-fly ‘bait’ reporting that he had trapped over 1900 flies in two months and is now experiencing less damage. It was also pointed out that the recent hot dry weather will deter insects – especially the smaller, softer ones.

Refreshed by afternoon tea and goodies members then set out to enjoy a walk around the garden of Malcolm and Ros Kirk, who hosted the meeting. They have applied organic and conservation principles to their property which had been mostly cleared prior to their purchase of their two and a half acre block. An existing clump of palms was removed to make way for the productive veggie and fruit patch with sweet corn, paw-paw, passion-fruit and pumpkin. Malcolm’s frog pool supports eight species of these important beneficial animals, which shelter in the native aquatic plants and surrounding shrubs. The plants have been established on natural rainfall, and this encourages young plants to form deep roots with hand watering if new plants become water-stressed. All cultivated areas are deeply mulched and Malcolm swears by barley straw as mulch, having few pests and diseases, is locally available – and is cheap! A large herb garden is planned and Ros’s interest in orchids adds variety to the garden.


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