Fruit growers are urging the Victorian Government to act on pest and disease threats to Goulburn Valley orchards before it is too late. Fruit Growers Victoria has pounced on a statement by Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh
Fruit growers are urging the Victorian Government to act on pest and disease threats to Goulburn Valley orchards before it is too late.
Fruit Growers Victoria has pounced on a statement by Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh which said his advice from DEPI was that the biosecurity risk doesn’t become a major issue until late October to early November.
‘‘The statement might have a small shred of veracity if it only referred to the risk of further spread of Queensland fruit fly because October and November is when the earliest varieties of fruits ripen,’’ Fruit Growers Victoria general manager John Wilson said.
‘‘However, it ignores the enormous risk of codling moth, light brown apple moth, oriental fruit moth, scale and fungal diseases like brown rot, black spot and curly leaf.
‘‘Sprays have already been applied, in those orchards that can afford it, for scale in pome and stone fruits, as well as curly leaf in stone fruit.
‘‘Any orchard that has not already done this will get a spread of wind-borne spores that will go beyond the borders of that orchard.’’
Mr Walsh hinted last week there may be some further support available for growers because he was expecting to make an announcement in the next few weeks.
A spokesman for him said on Monday the DEPI and the Minister will continue to work with industry and are aware of the situation with respect to biosecurity risks in the Goulburn Valley.
‘‘The Department’s advice was that pest and disease spread onto neighbouring properties occurs when they build up manifest, generally from late spring and early summer, and Minister Walsh’s comments were made in that context.’’
Growers who have lost their access to SPC Ardmona have unsuccessfully lobbied for state or federal money to pay for the costs of tree removal to enable them to convert to other agriculture.
Fruit Growers Victoria’s CropWatch field staff members have started putting out traps and lures as part of orchardists’ integrated pest and disease management programs.
Mr Wilson said all of this was being done because the pest and disease risks start at bud swell and at bud-burst, which is happening now.
‘‘It is already too late for any stone fruit orchard that did not spray for curly leaf. Similarly, it is impossible to do anything retrospectively with sprays to prevent the spread of scale after bud-burst.
‘‘The only way to stop further spread this season is to remove and burn those trees.’’
Mr Wilson said whoever gave that advice to the minister was culpable and ignorant.
‘‘The fruit growing industry has been adamant that the biosecurity risk is very real and very urgent,’’ Mr Wilson said.
‘‘The industry has investigated alternatives on how to handle the problem and keeps returning to the fact that the only cost-effective way to mitigate risk is to remove the trees.
‘‘The then Department of Primary Industries (now DEPI) significantly reduced horticulture staff over the last year as part of a department-wide cost reduction.
‘‘Victoria’s fruit growing industry agrees that it is the owners’ responsibility to control pests and diseases in their orchards.
‘‘However, many orchardists have been financially stranded by the processor quota cutbacks and have no financial capability whatsoever to meet their obligations.
‘‘The State Government has a duty of care to those communities that elected it to look after them.
‘‘The government should not hide behind bad advice simply to avoid a cost that is really an investment in Victoria’s future wellbeing,’’ Mr Wilson said.
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