High levels of resistance to phosphine have been found in Queensland and NSW, and are expected to emerge in other states, a national authority on grain fumigation has warned.
Graham White, of the Queensland Department of Primary Industries, said phosphine is used to treat about 80 per cent of Australia's cereal grains. An alternative fumigant, methyl bromide, was being phased out because of its effects on the ozone layer; carbon dioxide treatments were more expensive and while new fumigants were being developed, they were not yet registered.
"Two issues could limit phosphine's future use and these are insect resistance to the chemical and its responsible use," he said.
Nowadays, Dr White warned, phosphine-resistant insects "can only be controlled by fumigation if it is done in a gas-tight, sealed storage".
Responsible use required following label directions for exposure periods after which an airing period was required to remove the phosphine gas, and a withholding period before the grain was used.
Continued use of this important insect treatment depended on responsible use and any blemish on the safety record for phosphine fumigation could lead to restrictions on its use in the grain industry.
"Responsible use also requires application of phosphine in a gas-tight storage," Dr White said.
A national initiative aims to extend the use of phosphine as an effective fumigant for grain insects.
State coordinators are the key to this effort supported by growers and the Federal Government through the GRDC. They will work with industry groups to:
- promote the responsible and safe use of the fumigant phosphine, and
- control insects that are resistant to phosphine.
Dr White said state coordinators will work with graingrowers, grain and produce merchants, bulk handlers, grain transporters, government regulators and training organisations in developing local action plans.
Another major element is likely to be the availability of accredited training for the use of phosphine.
Training in the use of on-farm chemicals was already widespread and largely accepted within the grains industry and the ranks of regulators.
Specific modules dealing with phosphine fumigation were being developed for inclusion in both existing farm-chemical training courses and as a stand-alone phosphine-user training course.
WHO TO CONTACT
For more information, Ground Cover readers can contact their state coordinator or the project supervisor, Dr Graham White, DPI Queensland, 07 4688 1035.
State coordinators are:
- WA: Mr Chris Newman,AGWEST 08 9366 2309
- SA: Mr Steven Hogg, Primary Industries and Resources SA 08 8226 0428
- Victoria: Mr Peter Botta, Department of Natural Resources and Environment 03 5761 1647
- NSW: Ms Julianne Farrell, NSW Agriculture 02 6938 1934
- Queensland: Mr Jason Benn, Department of Primary Industries 07 4688 1027
North, South, West