Pesticides in the Spotlight

WTSIP's extension officers are developing their knowledge of pesticides in response to changes in the way pesticides are measured and assessed by the Queensland Government’s Paddock to Reef Monitoring and Modelling Program (P2R).

The number of chemicals that are routinely measured is increasing - from 13 to 22 in the latest 2019 Wet Tropics Report Card. Detection methods are also improving, which may result in more reports of water quality guideline exceedances.

Joe Marano, Chair of WTSIP, said it was important for the industry to proactively manage risks associated with pesticide use as improvements are made to water quality monitoring.

“Many growers are already working hard to manage the risk of chemicals entering local waterways but with changes to how the Queensland Government reports on breaches of water quality guidelines, we need to make sure everyone is operating with the best available information and advice,” he said.

Mr Marano said WTSIP’s Cane Technical Advisory Group had been asked to review the latest research, which showed a high incidence of Diuron in the majority of water samples and an increased detection of Imidacloprid in water samples from some sub-catchments, which may be related to over-use of Imidacloprid products (eg. Confidor and Suscon).

The Advisory Group reiterated “less is best”, suggesting there are many ways to minimise pesticide runoff including choosing pre-emergent products that are effective at a low application rate, banding or zonal application of pre-emergents, managing ratoons with knock-downs and spot spraying where possible and avoiding spraying pre-emergent chemicals close to and during the wet season.

Mr Marano said that WTSIP would be organising a series of district workshops for growers.

“Growers now have a much broader range of chemicals to choose from, many of which are less toxic, price competitive and less soluble than the more traditionally-used chemicals,” he said. “But we need detailed advice on when, where and how to use them effectively so they have less environmental impact while maintaining productivity.

Mr Marano said WTSIP’s 17 partners from mills, productivity boards, sugar research, industry bodies and natural resource management were committed to working together.

“It is important for us as an industry to understand how pesticides work and their relative risk to water quality so we can make sure everyone is well advised.

“This information is useful both for growers who have achieved their Smartcane BMP Accreditation as well as those still in progress. The educational process isn’t static, its ongoing and continually evolving, so by working together to understand our chemicals, we will be in a better position to find effective solutions to create a sustainable industry.”

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