"Think like an insect" to outwit cotton pests

“Conservational biocontrol that utilizes beneficial insects as a platform to support integrated pest management (IPM) on agricultural crops is what inspires me. In my opinion, to develop an effective and successful IPM program for agricultural crops, one needs to ‘think like an insect’ to outwit, outplay and outlast the pests. Synthetic insecticides should be used appropriately and as a last resort in IPM programs,” says Dr Robert Mensah.

Dr Mensah is a Senior Principal Research Scientist and Centre Director at NSWDPI’s Australian Cotton Research Institute (ACRI) with 30 years (26 in cotton research) in applied entomological research and development of integrated pest management (IPM) tools for use in cotton and other broad acre crops in Australia, Africa and Asia.

Dr Mensah has collaborated with agricultural companies in Australia and overseas to develop, register and commercialize new biological pesticide products (viz; beneficial insect food attractant sprays (Envirofeast®), spray oils, botanicals and fungal biopesticides) for use by farmers in IPM programs. For example, Dr Mensah’s research developed, registered and commercialized the first botanical product for sucking pests in Australia with all research undertaken at the Australian Cotton Research Institute in Narrabri. Funding input came from the Cotton Research and Development Corporation and commercial partners Innovate Agriculture Pty Ltd (a Wee Waa, NSW-based company). It’s estimated Dr Mensah’s findings on cotton pest management and pesticide innovation have been adopted by 80 per cent of the industry, saving the sector hundreds of millions of dollars and providing countless environmental gains. He is recognised globally as a leader in biologically friendly pesticides.

His research has contributed to improving the sustainability and economic viability of the Australian cotton industry. He was the Australian Cotton Industry Researcher of the Year in 1997 and in 2018 was awarded the Public Service Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list. He won a Churchill Fellowship in 2002, was nominated for the 2009 CSIRO Eureka Prize for Leadership in Science, and in 2015 was the Australian Cotton Industry nominee to the International Cotton Advisory Council's World Cotton Researcher of the Year.

He’s had 90 journal articles refereed, supervised 12 PhD student thesis, produced 12 confidential patent articles, 35 international Mission Reports, and 89 grower articles.

Dr Mensah is currently a Global IPM Technical Specialist and manages IPM projects in cotton and vegetables in Ethiopia and Benin

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