Weevil control solution could save Pink Lady exporters $300k

Successful trials in Western Australia of a new tool to eradicate an apple pest could result in significant savings for growers, both in existing and developing new export markets.

The eucalyptus weevil has cost WA Pink Lady exporters more than $300,000 annually in biosecurity controls, with cost reductions possible with a post-harvest application of the naturally-occurring fumigant ethyl formate, according to Manjimup orchardist and longtime Pink Lady exporter Harvey Giblett.

Ethyl formate could prove even more useful to local growers when scheduled future exports begin of WA’s new ANAPB01 apple, due to be officially launched in the coming harvest, Mr Giblett said.

Introduced accidentally with the planting of blue gum tree crops in the South West, the eucalyptus weevil became a very costly pest to neighbouring Pink Lady apple growers. Many apple export destinations, including the UK, where there is a short export window for the Pink Lady, have a zero biosecurity tolerance for the native Australian weevil and reject any consignment showing evidence of the pest.

“Murdoch University has developed a machine to treat coolrooms once they’ve been loaded with the product destined for export market, and we are now confident of achieving a 100% success rate,” Mr Giblett explained.

“Ethyl formate is already used for cereal crop fumigation in WA, and the recent trials have showed 100% control, including different weather conditions,” Mr Giblett said, referring to testing undertaken on his property, Newton Orchards.

Researchers are now seeking a permit for ongoing commercial use.

“We deem it very important to get it registered,” Mr Giblett said.
He noted the fumigant would be used as part of usual Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programmes; for example in the 2015 growing season it would not have been used, as orchard monitoring indicated minimal weevil presence. 

According to Murdoch University, ethyl formate was selected for the trials as it is currently registered as a dried fruit fumigant in Australia and has a demonstrated history as a safe chemical. It occurs naturally, kills insects rapidly and residue breaks down to naturally occurring products.

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