SOME Queensland strawberry growers selling fruit into Victoria face an increase in growing costs this year due to a new interstate agreement that requires them to introduce integrated pest management procedures.
The agreement (ICA 34) regulates the pest management practices used by growers in south-east Queensland. Its introduction in January follows the decision of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority to suspend the use of dimethoate, an insecticide that targets fruit fly on certain horticultural crops.
"Strawberry growers were not big fans of dimethoate to start with as it kills the predatory mites which control two-spotted mite and can affect the taste of the fruit, but it was certainly a cheaper alternative to the current regulations," Hortus Technical Services consultant Eddy Dunn said.
"One spray of dimethoate costs around $30 per hectare, whereas now, strawberry growers in regions affected by ICA 34 need to comply with a wider range of measures to protect from fruit fly. These measures range from the installation of fruit fly cups at distances of 20m to perimeter bait, spraying and regular external inspections."
In addition to the cost increase, strawberry growers have had to find an alternative to dimethoate. The growers Mr Dunn works with have largely chosen SuccessTM NEO from Dow AgroSciences as their preferred option.
The active ingredient in SuccessTM NEO, spinetoram, was named as an acceptable alternative to dimethoate for fruit fly management. .
"SuccessTM NEO has a proven track record. It helped protect strawberry crops from an outbreak of western flower thrip last season, which threatened at least 50% of the 2.5 million plants in Bundaberg," Mr Dunn said.
He noted that the pest outbreak was not surprising given the late dry spell, which provided the ideal climate for the western flower thrip to thrive.
"I estimate we managed to eradicate at least half of the active pests, saving 500,000 of the one million affected plants, which is a great outcome given how difficult western flower thrip is to eradicate," he said.