Yield losses force orchardist out

Left: Under pressure... orchardist Peter Casotti. Right: John Byl with his father Keith Byl pull up trees from their orchard. Pictures: Marcelo Palacios d402240
Left: Under pressure... orchardist Peter Casotti. Right: John Byl with his father Keith Byl pull up trees from their orchard. Pictures: Marcelo Palacios d402240

Robinson Orchard owner John Byl, a third-generation stone fruit grower, is the second Roleystone farmer in weeks to tell Comment News he will subdivide his family’s land.

He is citing the same pressures Peter Casotti (pictured), also a third-generation grower, spoke of.

A Federal authority last year decreed WA growers could only spray each crop twice, instead of the usual three times, with the mediterranean fruit fly (Medfly) pesticide fenthion.

Growers, including the Byls, took part in State Government trials of the alternative system, Area-Wide Management (AWM). Department of Agriculture and Food WA (DAFWA) released sterile flies in Roleystone and Mr Byl baited up to three times a week and trapped flies, but still lost up to 20 per cent of each crop.

He said costs were too high and profits too slim to cope with the losses.

‘The fruit fly is the final straw,’ he said.

‘No one has any problems with getting rid of the chemicals, but there’s not yet an alternative.’ Agriculture and Food minister Ken Baston’s spokeswoman said WA growers had last year told the Federal regulator they only needed two sprays to protect crops and over the past season, tests had been run to see if this usage would keep residues at acceptable levels.

If the Federal regulator cannot get and assess results by August’s end, the two-spray limit will remain for another year.

The spokeswoman said AWM had proven effective, but only if begun early in the season and continued, preferably until the start of winter.

‘Some growers have reported that they were able to control Medfly using baits under high fly pressure ” this was applied to individual orchards,’ she said.

‘AWM has proven effective in Jarrahdale, and was very effective in citrus in Gingin and Bindoon when trialed from 1998-2000.’

The problem is more severe in areas such as Roleystone, close to houses: as its name suggests, AWM is more effective if whole areas work together.

John Byl said the decision had been the easy part, compared to physically removing the trees.

‘It is a sad day,’ John’s father Keith Byl said. ‘I planted all these trees myself.’