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Big spend: fruit fly control costing orchards

Local orchadists have been forced to spend a a lot of money on new chemicals to prevent fruit flies after the chemical fenthion was banned.There’s hardly been a fruit fly this summer, but David Betland has spent seven times more than usual on chemical to control the destructive pest in his orchards.
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A ban on fenthion, which the Betland family has used to control fruit fly for more than 50 years, came into effect this season.

It’s made this an expensive summer for local growers.

“With the old chemical, if I didn’t see (fruit fly) stings I didn’t spray,” Betland said.

“With the new products, I’ve got to use three or four of them and I’ve got to put them on as a preventative – I’ve got to spend a lot of money, this season probably seven-fold what I did the year before.

“The other thing is that these chemicals are hard on beneficial insects so now I’ve got to treat the secondary problem of mites.

“I’m filthy that I have spent an absolute fortune in spray.”

The broad-spectrum insecticide was banned last year by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority.

They had been reviewing fenthion since 1998 looking at its toxicology, residues in food, worker exposure and environmental effects.

It’s a blow to a local industry that’s getting tougher to stay in.

“My family’s been in fruit here for generations,” Mr Betland said.

“There were 10 orchards here but we’re down to a handful.”

It is one of the factors that will see another local orchardist scale down his operation.

Luke Ellison’s trees were smashed in a hail storm in October 2014 and his trees have been permanently damaged.

“The fruit was ready to pick the next day and it was just too much stress on the trees,” Mr Ellison said.

“They did bear fruit this year but some of it was great and some of it was terrible – the thing is it costs as much to produce bad fruit as good fruit.”

He too spent a fortune on chemical this year to prevent fruit fly.

“With the old chemicals, we could monitor our trees and use Lebaycid if we needed to, we knew we were covered,” he said.

“With the new chemicals you have to use them, that’s where the cost comes in, and it’s also the time.

“I’m out there all day irrigating and so on, then back out with the spray cart at night.

It’s left both growers with concerns that they wouldn’t be able to control fruit fly in a bad season.

“This year wasn’t bad but a bad year’s only around the corner,” Mr Ellison said.

“Even if we get windy weather for a week and I can’t spray, the fly will come in.”

Mr Betland said conditions had been in the orchardist’s favour – and not the fruit fly’s – this summer.

The hot, dry conditions following an extremely cold winter have limited the spread of fly.

“I’m pretty confident that I can control it this year,” he said.

“If we had a wet, mild summer, I’d be very worried.”

The daunting prospect of trying to re-establish will see Mr Ellison pull out about 60 per cent of his fruit trees this year and look for other work.

“It would take me five years to get trees in and get them going again,” he said.

“It’s a big cost and a lot of time with no income.”

FRUIT FLY IN BACKYARDS

Central Tablelands Local Land Services this week issued a media release asking backyard fruit and vegetable growers to crack down on fruit fly.

They warn that fruit fly has the potential to cost the Australian fruit and vegetable growers millions of dollars each year.

“If you grow fruit and vegetables that are prone to fruit fly attack in your home garden, you are responsible for ensuring that the pest is contained,” horticulture specialist Karen O’Malley said.

“If you want to grow backyard fruit and vegetables, then you need to be prepared to control fruit fly on an ongoing basis.

“Exclusion netting should be considered for chemical-free control, and you need to pick up and heat treat fallen fruit to stop fruit fly breeding.

“Heat treating can be as simple as putting infected fruit or vegetables in a sealed black plastic bag and leaving it in the hot sun to cook.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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