Growers push case for fenthion

Kate PollardThe West Australian

Commercial orchardists in Perth's Hills are calling on the chemical regulator to allow the continued use of an insecticide used to protect against fruit fly on pome and stonefruit.

Last week, the Hills Orchard Improvement Group sent the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority a grower report on fenthion trial results.

HOIG spokesman Brett DelSimone said the results showed the use of fenthion by commercial growers was below maximum residue levels allowed by the APVMA.

The maximum allowable levels range from 0.2 to 0.4mg/kg, depending on the fruit.

In September last year, the Agvet chemical regulator announced the suspension of fenthion on fruit crops, but backlash from WA orchardists resulted in a 12-month extension which expires in October.

Mr DelSimone said scientifically, the fenthion levels in the trial were under the maximum residue levels set by APVMA.

There has also been a question mark over the results of a study used by the APVMA in determining residue levels, because the study did not detect levels below 0.5mg/kg.

Mr DelSimone said this study needed to be peer reviewed.

The group has also called for backyard growers to be able to use fenthion at the same rate as commercial growers to help combat fruit fly.

During the trial, commercial growers averaged losses of 20 to 35 per cent of crops because of fruit fly damage.

If a suspension for backyard growers remains in place, Mr DelSimone said commercial growers may have to ask for an extra application.

Under the permit, they are allowed two sprays, but if commercial and residential growers can access the insecticide, it will help reduce fruit crop losses and uncertainty.

APVMA's decision in October to suspend fenthion has created uncertainty among WA growers. Some have already exited the industry, while others have removed trees and put orchards on the market.

Mr DelSimone said growers needed a concise and clear result from the APVMA.

"We can't wait until the eve of harvest to know if we can protect our crops. We need a decision as soon as possible," he said.

Hills growers are expected to start harvest in early November and will look to spray mid-October.

A spokeswoman for the APVMA said it was considering the report.

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