GPA collaboration delivers ecologically-sound mice control solution for growers

Call to address mice plague with simplest, safest and most timely option

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COMMENT: Zinc phosphide is approved and the preferred mice control option of GPA.

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When it comes to mice control, finding the best ways to supply farmers with zinc phosphide bait options should be the priority, according to Grain Producers Australia chair Andrew Weidemann.

When it comes to mice control, finding the best ways to supply farmers with zinc phosphide bait options should be the priority, according to Grain Producers Australia chair Andrew Weidemann.

COMMENT

Australian farmers are already suffering from the devastating impacts of prolonged droughts, flash floods, the global COVID-19 pandemic, brutal bushfires and trade wars with China.

So, an escalating mouse plague is the last thing our rural and regional communities need.

NSW Farmers estimates more than $1 billion will be stripped off the farmgate value of that state's winter crop due to mice, and the mounting social toll is virtually impossible to calculate by numbers alone.

Other states are also facing serious crop losses and threats to farm profitability from rampant mice populations, and they are closely watching what's happening in NSW.

Farmers and their communities need all the support they can get to help manage these problems effectively and to provide some certainty in such anxious times.

That is why Grain Producers Australia (GPA) has been ahead of the game in delivering an ecologically-sound solution that has resulted from strong collaboration - over an extended period - with leading scientific researchers and agencies.

This joint-effort, led by Australia's peak national grain grower advocacy group, has delivered tougher and more effective control measures - illustrated by the emergency permit recently issued by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA).

The new permit doubles the potency of current zinc phosphide in mouse bait registrations, which gives farmers a more potent control tool that they can access now for use in-paddock.

It increases the concentration of zinc phosphide active from 25 grams per kilogram to 50g/kg of mouse bait.

Farm chemical manufacturing companies ACTA, Imtrade, PCT, Wilhelm Rural and 4Farmers have supported this application.

GPA applied for the APVMA emergency use permit earlier this year, based on the outcomes of new research that studied the problem of anti-feeding behaviours in mice - and in response to mouse monitoring and emerging plague risks.

Our work to help establish the National Mouse Management Group in 2010 is another key part of the ongoing joint effort to help protect the profitability and sustainability of Australian grain producers, who contribute between $9 billion and $12 billion to the national economy each year.

Meanwhile, the NSW government's response to the mouse plague in that state may be well-intentioned, but it has raised some alarm bells among scientific experts and farmers.

This is due to its mooted plans to use the chemical bromadiolone, which is not registered for in-field use and poses an environmental risk.

The government's proposed approach would allow local farmers to use this anticoagulant poison in perimeter baiting stations throughout the state, via an emergency permit that is yet to be approved by the APVMA.

But Dr Maggie Watson, an ecologist at the Charles Sturt Institute for Land, Water and Society in Albury-Wodonga, has gone public to warn that bromadiolone causes secondary poisoning in wild and domestic animals, such as cats and dogs. (For more information on this see: https://news.csu.edu.au/latest-news/academic-warns-new-$50m-mouse-plague-package-will-put-other-animals-at-risk)

In a recent media release, Dr Watson said bromadiolone was a "highly lethal, second-generation poison and it should not be part of the NSW government's $50 million package to combat the state's mouse plague".

She said several alternative options, such as zinc phosphide for crops, were already available for farmers to use and carried less risk of secondary poisoning in animals.

These cautionary warnings have been echoed by other scientific experts, who have also strongly highlighted the improved efficacy of the preferred zinc phosphide approach.

GPA understands the NSW government's intention in seeking the new APVMA permit is to allow bromadiolone baiting by farmers on paddock perimeters, to support an integrated approach to mouse management.

But because zinc phosphide is already approved and commercially available, this is clearly the simplest, safest, most timely and environmentally viable option to address the plague.

That is why we believe all support efforts should be collectively focused on finding ways to supply zinc phosphide options to farmers right now, in the most timely and efficient way.

This includes continuing to work with the farm chemical manufacturers and the federal government to ensure the international supply of critical bait ingredients to produce this preferred product are flowing smoothly.

This will meet surging demand - not just right now, but also in the medium and longer-term.

After the mice have gone, GPA also believes another joint collaborative effort is needed to ensure we have reliable ways of stockpiling bait product for emergency use in future.

This will help to meet supply during periods of surging demand, such as what we are experiencing now.

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