Spray ban disastrous for growers

Hills growers have used fenthion to control Mediterranean fruit fly (Medfly) for decades, but a Federal authority last year reduced sprays allowed from three to two, as it investigated possible health effects.

Growers in Perth’s eastern council areas, which the State Government declared infested, reported losses of up to 100 per cent last season even with two sprays.

Last week, the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) banned fenthion outright on peaches and apricots. They still permit its application to other crops, until they make a final decision after the review finishes mid-2014.

The APVMA said that it worked with industry and governments to consider all information, and understand its decision’s implications.

It had discussed alternative pest management and issued permits for other chemicals, and said industry could still submit data.

The Hills Orchard Improvement Group has questioned methodology used for the review.

Spokesman Brett DelSimone said the announcement had come at the worst possible time, as Hills harvesting began in a few weeks, and peaches and apricots were among the most vulnerable crops.

‘The ban will make production of these fruits impossible. Losses last season were up to 50 per cent on peaches and apricots with a two-application permit. It is not hard to draw the conclusion of complete destruction without any applications.’

He said this would destroy other crops planted alongside and the only way to avoid this would be to remove all peach and apricot trees from the ground, at huge cost to industry and consumers.

He said other protections were ineffective, dangerous or unproven and growers had committed to chemical reduction, but only when the methods introduced to this end over the past two years proved reliable.