Control agricultural weeds, pests and diseases while maximising profitability, ensuring safety, and minimising environmental impacts.
Agricultural and veterinary chemicals are used globally to control weeds, pests and diseases in crops and animals at various stages of production, storage and export. A significant threat to economically and environmentally sustainable control is that target agripests become resistant to the chemicals used to try and manage them. The challenge of resistance occurs worldwide. Using a combination of practices and management strategies to prevent problems from occurring and reduce the need for chemical use can slow the spread of resistance. In turn, this practise helps preserve essential products for when they are the only option for control.
Additionally, despite chemicals improving agricultural productivity and animal welfare, their use faces questions. Key concerns are for the safety of food and fibre products, the potential health impacts of chemicals on workers and their communities, and environmental damage to land, water, flora and fauna. Some chemicals used in Australia are banned or highly regulated overseas, which can restrict export markets and jeopardise their longer-term registration. Market forces are also limiting the production of new chemicals.
In Australia, the use of agricultural chemicals such as insecticides, miticides, herbicides, fungicides, antibiotics and anthelmintics has doubled since 1992 to over 50,000 tonnes each year, costing around $3.7 billion. To support resilience in pest, weed and disease control and address social license concerns, there is a clear case to modify how chemicals are used in the coming years.
A national conversation to map profitable agri-food and fibre systems with lowered chemical inputs.
For the last two years CSIRO has been leading a national conversation with agricultural industries, government departments, financial services, non-governmental organisations, farm input manufacturers and resellers, processors, exporters, retailers and consumers. The Agripest Challenge team has spoken with stakeholders to gain a better understanding of what they see as the key challenges for durable pest management.
One of the potential outputs we have been developing is a national platform for assessing risks to specific controls and collecting and sharing relevant data across the supply chain (the Pesticide Use Risk Scenario Platform). Through interviews with a diversity of stakeholders we have found that data sharing is one of the biggest impediments to developing partnerships across the supply chains.
How can you help?
For over a decade pest, weed and disease control scientists researched how to optimise the use of chemicals whilst minimising costs, and developed alternatives including genetically resistant crops and livestock, biological products, vaccines, and specific tactics for production that reduce the chances of infestation. However, despite opportunities and some success via Integrated Pest/Weed/Disease Management (IPM), there continues to be an over-reliance on chemicals throughout much of agriculture.
The Agripest Challenge team has documented some of the reasons why the adoption of alternative and diverse pest management practices has stalled in many Agricultural industries. We have identified the roadblocks that prevent change of practice on farm and throughout supply chains. We have pinpointed the changes needed for Australian agriculture to keep pace with demands and changed expectations from overseas buyers of our products and shifting needs of domestic buyers. However, to achieve change will require more than science research, but a strengthened process for the co-innovation of solutions throughout supply chains.