Welcome to 2019

It’s already 2019 and where have the last two months gone? There’s been a lot happening: The APVMA is seeking further consultation on their spray drift policy; The Inspector-General of Biosecurity sought consultation on their management of risks to Brown marmorated stink bug entry into Australia; Chemical training and accreditation company Chem Cert is no longer able to deliver accredited courses; and the Senate inquiry confirmed the APVMA’s regulatory processes as sound and their decisions can be trusted. We certainly are off to a running start with another Queensland ChemClear collections scheduled for July.

But before we dive in, we’d like to thank you, our subscribers, for joining us again this year. On behalf of all of us at Infopest, we are grateful for your support.

National Working Party for Pesticide Application meet on APVMA spray drift policy consultation

The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) have sought further consultation on their policy for spray drift. In response, the National Working Party for Pesticide Application (NWPPA) arranged a meeting for stakeholders at the Federal Golf Club in Canberra on 15 February.

Colin Sharpe has also replaced Gavan Cattanach as chair of the NWPPA. Mr Sharpe will continue to assist the group in providing valuable technical comment and input to the APVMA on behalf of industry on the matter of spray drift and other pesticide application matters.

At the aforementioned meeting, the APVMA detailed the changes they made in response to the previous consultation period from 18 December 2017 to 30 March 2018. There has been considerable consultation and input and now the APVMA is keen to move from Stage 1 to Stage 2. Stage 1 involves the process leading up to establishing a product label or permit instructions. Stage 2 involves an interactive spray drift management tool (SDMT) that will allow chemical users to refine the realistic worst-case risk assessments used in the standard assessment and recalculate buffer zone distances based on their own circumstances.

The APVMA reiterated much of the changes in response to consultation comments outlined in their Summary of public Consultation on Spray drift policy. (To view a summary of the Public Consultation on Spray drift Policy, visit https://apvma.gov.au/sites/default/files/publication/39581-summary_of_public_consultation_on_spray_drift_policy_0.pdf).

The APVMA remains open to discussion on drift reducing technologies (DRTs) which will enable them to assess buffer zones for possible reductions. They are keen to hear from example industries where imposed buffers are impractical and how DRTs employed could be used to offset the need for larger buffers.

Supplemental comments from stakeholders on the APVMA’s approach to spray drift management Stage 1 can be submitted until the 8 March 2019. To make a comment, visit https://apvma.gov.au/node/33726

Assessment of BMSB biosecurity measures

“The brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB, Halyomorpha halys) is an exotic pest that poses a significant biosecurity risk to Australia’s agricultural industries, as it is a voracious feeder that damages vegetable crops and fruit trees. It is known to feed on more than 300 hosts, including important agricultural crops such as apple, bean, cotton, citrus, maize, soybean and tomato. If BMSB were to enter and establish in Australia it would have a significant impact on the country’s crop yield and affect the export value of crop production. In addition its agricultural risks, BMSB is also a smelly nuisance pest that may infest homes, offices and factories, emitting secretions that can cause allergic reactions in some people”.

– The Inspector-General of Biosecurity

What an introduction to those that don’t know about BMSB! Clearly, it’s not a pest we want getting loose on our shores.

The Inspector-General of Biosecurity has recently sought input on the effectiveness of the biosecurity measures to manage the risk of BMSB entering Australia. For more information, visit


BMSB was the topic of our November issue’s Pest Watch segment. The pest has come into sharp focus due to the growing number of detections being intercepted on foreign cargo entering Australia, requiring urgent response by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.

Due to the increasing risk of BMSB, the intense and rapidly changing efforts by the Department to manage it, and considerable stakeholder impacts, the Inspector-General of Biosecurity decided to facilitate a review of the effectiveness of the Department’s biosecurity measures to manage the risks of BMSB entering Australia, and what if any improvements should be made.

As part of the review, stakeholders were invited to comment on the Department’s BMSB risk management and offer evaluation of their efforts in:

  • developing and verifying effectiveness of offshore BMSB management measures
  • BMSB profiling, assessment, inspection and treatment of conveyances and cargo arriving in Australia
  • management of approved arrangements involved in onshore BMSB management activities, including reviewing the effectiveness of measures taken by industry to ensure compliance with biosecurity requirements
  • approval/accreditation of offshore and onshore treatment providers
  • engagement and consultation with industry and other stakeholders
  • identifying improvements required to manage biosecurity risks, including:
  • legal powers available to manage BMSB risks effectively, and
  • assessment of need for replacement and/or upgrade of current ICT systems used onshore.

We hope the feedback received will enable improvements in risk management for incursions of this pest.

ChemCert unable to deliver accredited courses / certification

No doubt, many Infopest users who apply pesticides have been accredited by ChemCert, the national chemical use training group. Grain Central reported that in a statement released by ChemCert on 1 January 2019, they apologetically stated that the group were unable to deliver accredited courses from 24 January and were unable to advise of a time frame for a solution to the problem. To view the Grain Central article, visit: https://www.graincentral.com/news/chemcert-unable-to-deliver-accredited-courses-certification/

The Australian Skills Qualifications Authority (ASQA) has advised ChemCert’s registration as a registered training organisation (RTO) expired on 23 January 2019 and has not been renewed. At the time of the publication of this newsletter, the ChemCert website shows courses being offered for AQF2, AQF3, AQF4, control weeds and 1080 Victoria only. ChemCert has verbally advised that despite the information on their website, they are only offering AQF3 and AQF4 which are being delivered by alternative training business, Chemqual. This means they are now a third party deliverer working under Chemqual’s certification.

AgForce training manager Peter Smith said registration is issued for five years and renewal is applied for six months prior to expiration. The fact that ChemCert’s registration has not been renewed doesn’t necessarily point to any deliberate wrongdoing.

RTOs generally are finding the requirements around training modules are challenging and in some cases it is more cost effective for a company to either stop accrediting or outsource their accreditation via other RTOs. To date, ChemCert has not offered an explanation for its circumstance.

Unfortunately, some students have been adversely impacted by this development. While they are unable to offer accredited courses, ChemCert has advised other providers may be found at www.training.gov.au. There are a number of experienced providers in different states who can deliver chemical accreditation training, reaccreditation and the issue of a chemical accreditation card. Potential students for agricultural chemical use training may wish to shop around.

Senate inquiry findings on APVMA’s regulatory processes

At the request of the Senate, the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Reference Committee reported on the independence of regulatory decisions made by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA). The inquiry received a large number of submissions over the range of topics specified in the report. Many expressed concern over the Authority’s loss of regulatory experts brought about by its move to Armidale and the effects this is having on assessment time frames. Many submissions focused on the determinations regarding glyphosate’s safe use and banning neonicotinoids to protect bees. To view the report, visit https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Rural_and_Regional_Affairs_and_Transport/APVMA/Report

There were both positive and negative responses offered. The report writes, “It became clear to the Committee that stakeholders who had active and regular engagement with the APVMA were more likely to have confidence in its scientific rigor and independence; whilst organisations and individuals who did not have direct or regular contact with the authority tended to question its impartiality, processes and evaluations.”

As Chair of the reviewing committee, Senator Glenn Sterle made nine recommendations and registered his view that the APVMA has a crucial role in assessing, registering and regulating agvet chemicals in Australia. He also stated the APVMA faces a number of significant challenges due to its Armidale relocation.

On the matter of the review of glyphosate, the committee determined “the APVMA’s scientific processes to be robust” and “that the regulator did not receive any new scientific evidence during the consultation period relating to the possible carcinogenicity of glyphosate that it had not already considered.”

Community consultation was deemed a weak point and as a result the committee recommended that the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources and the APVMA undertake a formal study of international regulatory agency forums with the aim of establishing something similar in Australia. The committee said “an appropriately constituted forum could go some way to allowing the APVMA to communicate its complex processes and procedures more effectively.”

Exciting new bio-pesticides become available

A number of new bio-pesticides have been or are currently being assessed by the APVMA. Infopest lists 50 results in a search on “biological” pesticides – the majority of these are insecticides made from various strains of Bacillus thuringiensis. It is therefore exciting to hear about the success of the University of Queensland in releasing a bio-herbicide for woody weeds. After an eight year wait, BioHerbicides Australia (formed by UQ’s UniQuest commercialisation company in 2010) has received the APVMA approval for their product, Di-Back Parkinsonia.

The product is based on strains of naturally occurring fungi – Lasiodiplodia pseudotheobromae NT039, Macrophomina phaseolina NT094, and Neoscytalidium novaehollandiae QLD003 – which can be injected into the trunk of the Parkinsonia tree and cause it to die without damaging the surrounding environment. Parkinsonia is one of Australia’s most invasive woody weeds that threatens a wide range of landscapes plus plant and animal species.

Also under consideration by the APVMA is BASF’s product Serifel Biofungicide for use in controlling Botrytis cinerea in grapes and strawberries. The active here is Bacillus amyloliquefaciens strain MBI 600, a bacterium which is prevalent in soils worldwide. The bacterium works against the fungal pathogens in a number of ways, such as nutrient competition, site exclusion, colonisation and attachment of the bacteria to the fungal pathogen. It is considered a microbial disruptor of pathogen cell membranes. Whilst this active is new to Australia, it is currently registered in other products in countries such as the USA, Canada, France, Greece, Italy, Malaysia, New Zealand and a number of others.

Another relatively new product being trialled under permit is Innovate Ag’s Sero-X. Sero-X is a new peptide-based pollinator and predator-safe bio-insecticide used for the control or suppression of green mirids, silver leaf white fly, heliothis and various other insect pests susceptible to Clitoria Ternatea Extract. Sero-X contains a brand-new class of chemical compound that harnesses the plants power to protect themselves.

Innovate Ag have registered approval for the active constituent in Sero-X for use on cotton crops (APVMA Approval No: 81070/102266) and are working to develop the registration package for all horticulture crops. They are hoping to have the data ready by the end of summer 2018-2019. Meanwhile, a unique research and supply permit has been granted by the APVMA, allowing Sero-X trials to be undertaken across a broad spectrum of crops such as brassicas, leafy and bulb vegetables, cucurbits, tomatoes, citrus fruits, berries and tree crops. The goal is to develop a better understanding of the product’s efficacy in large scale trials.

It is exciting to see some new products becoming available in the bio-pesticide range, giving growers effective but environmentally friendly options to manage pests in their crops. Let’s hope there are many more to come!

Pest watch – Tomato brown rugose fruit virus (TOBRFV)

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources has advised of an emerging risk, tomato brown rugose fruit virus, and the actions the Department is taking to manage this risk in tomato and capsicum.

The first outbreak of ToBRFV was reported on tomatoes in Israel in 2014, and then reported in Jordan, Mexico, Germany, USA (California), Italy (Sicily) and Northern Palestine in subsequent years. The virus has not been detected in Australia and is not considered to be present. To view a distribution map visit: https://gd.eppo.int/taxon/TOBRFV/distribution

ToBRFV is known to infect tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum) and members of the Capsicum annuum complex resulting in unmarketable fruit, and has plant disease resistance breaking capability. To check a list of host plants, visit: https://gd.eppo.int/taxon/TOBRFV/hosts

The economic impact of any incursion is expected to be relatively high. Potentially at-risk Australian industries include tomatoes, capsicums and chillies. If ToBRFV were to enter Australia, control options would be limited and expected to rely on destruction of infected material and strict hygiene measures.

A member of the Tobamovirus genus, ToBRFV is generally seed-borne, can remain viable in seeds for months, and is known to be associated with the seed coat and endosperm. The genus includes the seed-borne quarantine pests Cucumber green mottle mosaic virus (CGMMV), Kyuri green mottle mosaic virus (KGMMV) and Zucchini green mottle mosaic virus (ZGMMV).

Transmission occurs through propagation materials (seeds, plants for planting, grafts, cuttings), and locally by contact (direct plant to plant contact, contaminated tools, hands, through clothing and by bees).

An EPPO alert, including a description of symptoms, can be found at: www.eppo.int/ACTIVITIES/plant_quarantine/alert_list_viruses/tomato_brown_rugose_fruit_virus.

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources is introducing emergency measures to reduce the likelihood of ToBRFV occurring in Australia. Australia currently requires PCR testing of imported tomato and capsicum seeds for several pathogens and this could be extended to include ToBRFV.

An adjustment of seed testing requirements to include ToBRFV is currently under consideration and work is in progress to identify an appropriate diagnostic protocol and seed testing regime. The aim will be to minimise the impacts on trade by utilising, where possible, collected samples to meet existing import testing requirements.

An implementation plan and schedule for introducing the emergency measures is being developed, which will include stakeholder consultation and notification to trading partners.

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources will be undertaking industry consultation in coming months.