2019 February: Growers lose $1 million from suspected toxic spray. Pesticide: 2,4-D suspected

DISASTER: Growers lose $1 million from suspected toxic spray


A SUSPECTED spray drift disaster has created a “nightmare harvest” for St George grape grower David Blacket and other farmers who now face an estimated $1 million loss in crops.

The first signs the toxic weed killer had drifted on to Riversands Vineyards and other crops started to show in September 2018 – that’s when Mr Blacket and other growers raised their concerns with Biosecurity Queensland. Growers were hoping their vines would grow out of the early leaf damage, however their harvest yielded small, unmarketable berries.

This resulted in a loss estimated to be in the seven figures.

The Riversands Vineyards owner said he and two other grape growers in the region were feeling the loss.

“It was a nightmare harvest, with approximately half of our Menindee crop unmarketable, due to below spec berry size,” Mr Blacket said.

“Bunch weights were lighter, picking costs were also doubled, due to higher piece rates required to compensate the slow picking.

“Aggregated losses across all the vineyards in St George is around one million dollars.”

The Balonne Beacon understands Biosecurity Queensland has launched an investigation into whether spray drift from 2,4-D affected crops.

The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority introduced new 2,4-D label instructions in October 2018 in an attempt to curtail spray drift cases.

Users of 2,4-D now must comply with the new label instructions, even if they are using products with the old labels – which includes a requirement not to spray in inversion conditions and additional information on recognising inversion conditions.

These label changes came in less than a month after Mr Blacket and other growers reported their case to Biosecurity Queensland.

Mr Blacket previously told the Balonne Beacon he didn’t know the source of the 2,4-D spraying.

However he believes it has drifted from fallow weed spraying in the early weeks of September.

“This is money that won’t be circulating through the town, all because of careless spray application in unsuitable conditions,” he said.

“We (the horticultural industry) already cop enough risks growing these crops without additional risks from herbicide drift.

“It is so insidious and difficult to manage for.”

George Faessler, a nearby table grape grower, said his crops were also severely affected.

“My Flame Seedless crop was particularly hard hit, with most of the fruit unmarketable,” he said.

David Moon, an onion and cotton grower from Moonrocks, said he felt 2,4-D should be banned completely in horticultural and cotton regions.

“There are better, more cost effective options to use, which have far less risk attached,” he said.