A GROUP of agricultural researchers is calling on farmers and farm advisors to think long-term about their insecticide strategies.
Rather than focusing on what will provide the best results in the short-term a strategy that provides long-term efficacy and safety of products should be the aim according to agronomists Craig Drum, Dagro, Greg Toomey, Nutrien, and Kelly Angel, Birchip Cropping Group.
Speaking at a recent Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) update, the trio said that the European example, where neo-nicotinoid seed treatments had been banned, showed insecticide use was under the microscope and that farmers needed to acknowledge social licence requirements.
"Insecticide use has always changed and there has always been resistance evolving, right back as far as 1914" Ms Angel said.
"Ask anyone what the practices were like when you were born and people will have been farming a very different way."
She said farmers needed to recognise there were now over 580 cases of insect resistance to insecticides and plan for a future with less options.
Mr Drum agreed.
"There is a reliance on broad spectrum insecticide within Australian cropping," he said.
"We need to ensure we look at other ways so if the problems we currently see with resistance with pests such as red-legged earth mite get worse then we can still manage."
He said concepts such as integrated pest management (IPM) and the move away from broad spectrum products to avoid killing beneficial species were a good start.
Mr Toomey said farmers were faced with strict restrictions regarding insect presence in delivered grain which was part of the reason they often went for a heavy-handed approach in terms of insecticide.
He said the industry needed to acknowledge the challenges farmers faced, such as delivery requirements, seasonally heavy pest burdens and limited range of control options.
"We need to highlight how important sustainability is and how this long-term planning is what is going to set us up as an industry rather than always focusing on the short-term."
Mr Toomey said this could be a matter of assessing whether an insecticide application was really necessary.
"You only get a certain amount of shots in terms of the use of a mode of action you want to make sure you are getting the best bang for your buck when using them rather than just putting out a spray prophylactically because you think there could be trouble with pests."
"If there is a really heavy infestation of pests and it is going to cause significant economic damage to the crop that is the time to pull the trigger."
Ms Angel said an industry-wide response committing to safe and sustainable practices was required.
"If we are going to continue to keep products available, both in terms of resistance and regulation then we need to look long-term."