Plague Locust Control on Organic Farms – Part 1

Across NSW a number of agencies including Industry & Investment NSW (I&I NSW), NSW Farmers Association, Livestock Health and Pest Authorities (LHPAs), Australian Plague Locust Commission and NSW land managers continue work together to control locusts. Though this has been successful locust numbers remain extremely high due to the exceptional seasonal conditions across many areas. As a result, large swarms have laid eggs and are destroying crops, pastures and horticultural crops in many parts of western NSW. All landholders are requested to watch out for egg laying swarms so these sites can be monitored for nymphal hatchings in spring 2010.

The control of locusts is important to all in the farming community. If left uncontrolled, numbers will build up dramatically resulting in lost production across all sectors. Locusts left untreated can destroy crops and vegetation on your own place or migrate to other farms causing devastation. The damage caused by locusts can have severe financial impacts on landholders. It is important that all land managers actively monitor and control locusts.

All landholders, regardless of their enterprise, have an obligation under the Rural Lands Protection Act, 1998 to control the Australian Plague Locust, which has been declared as a pest insect by the Minister. All LHPA ratepayers currently contribute to the Pest Insect Destruction Fund, which supplies and meets the cost of appropriate insecticides and which supplies equipment for the control of this pest insect as required. Organic farmers have the same obligation to carry out locust control as any other landholder. The National Standard for Organic and Bio-dynamic Produce (Edition 3.4, 2009) and the Australian Standard® Organic and Biodynamic products (AS 6000, 2009) state:
1. Requirements outlined in this Standard are complementary and additional to other health, agricultural or food standards or regulatory requirements recognised by or enacted by the Commonwealth, States or Territories. These include but are not limited to food safety, animal welfare and, environmental management and social justice.

A biological insecticide has been made available to organic farmers allowing them to conduct control. This biological control agent Metarhizium anisopliae is a naturally occurring Australian biological fungal agent and is commonly known as Greenguard®. Greenguard® has been successfully used to control locusts on organic crops and environmentally sensitive habitats. Other insecticides available for locust control include fenitrothion and Chlorpyrifos, but these do not comply with organic standards. Greenguard® is available as 2 possible formulations – ULV (ultra low volume) or SC (suspension concentrate). The ULV form is used for aerial application which primarily targets large locust bands (at the nymph stage) in remote areas of the semi-arid inland. The ULV formulation is acceptable for use under organic Standards. The SC formulation currently contains a surfactant which does not comply with the requirements of organic Standards. However, your Certifier in conjunction with the manufacturer of GreenGuard® is investigating an alternative formulation. Any insecticides must be used according to the requirements of the Pesticides Act 1999. The Act requires that all insecticide applications be recorded. This is also a requirement of organic certification.

Certified organic producers or those seeking organic certification should notify the LHPA to ensure that the location of their premises can be considered in risk assessment and pre-control checks. LHPA officers are available to assist all landmanagers at the local level with expert advice on plague locust control. If you have any queries regarding locust control and the use of the existing control agents, please contact your Certifier. For further information please refer to the Industry & Investment NSW Plague Locust web page: http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/agriculture/pests-weeds/insects/general/locusts or contact you local LHPA: http://www.lhpa.org.au/districts