APPLYING a chemical according to label directions does not necessarily mean that grain will meet destination market requirements - that was the key message from a presentation on maximum residue limits (MRLs) given at the Grains Research and Development Corporation's Grains Research Update in Perth on February 22.
During the presentation, titled 'Changing market chemical MRLs and impacts for growers', National Working Party on Grain Protection (NWPGP) chairman Gerard McMullen said there were market access implications when using chemicals.
"There is a need for advisers and growers to understand the risks of residues arising from chemical use and the impact on market acceptance," Mr McMullen said.
"Each destination country has their own chemical legislation based on their specific chemical usage and consumption patterns, hence different MRLs for the same chemical and commodity can apply in different markets.
"Markets are continually changing their MRLs, with some key chemistry available in Australia being impacted soon."
In Australia, growers are under increased pressure from markets to not only prove how good they are in terms of product quality, but also the safety of the product.
While growers in WA do have a good reputation, they are facing increased scrutiny which includes an increase in sampling, testing and monitoring of shipments.
"That's not necessarily just from a regulatory point of view, but is also being influenced by social issues and consumer demand," Mr McMullen said.
"When the regulators set the MRLs, it's not a food safety issue, but regardless, markets are increasing their scrutiny and they are, in general, lowering MRLs."
While Australian growers do have a good track record of compliance with regulations in terms of applying chemicals and following label directions, because of the societal pressures and changing MRLs in different markets, the resulting grain still might not meet a particular market requirement.
Growers need to know what the market requirements are and they need to know as early as possible prior to using that chemical, but sometimes that's not always the case because they might be using three, six or nine months prior to harvest period.
Mr McMullen said the post farmgate sector was not going to sell grain unless it knew the quality status and chemical residue status.
"Given the hundreds of chemicals that could potentially be used and which may or may not lead to residues on that particular parcel of grain, they can't be doing testing for every grower load," he said.
"That is where the post farmgate relies on commodity vendor declarations from growers.
"If growers are asked for a commodity vendor declaration as to what chemicals were used, it needs to be filled out correctly as post farm gate uses that as a risk management tool to supply grain to customers," Mr McMullen said.
There are a whole range of different MRLs for a whole range of different commodities and chemicals, with some of those chemical MRLs under review.
"That is something that we need to keep watching and that is the role of NWPGP," Mr McMullen said.
"We don't expect growers, grower advisers or even the bulk handling companies to be on top of all that, so it's our role to monitor all those changing market requirements and to provide that information to industry.
"From a growers perspective, it mainly comes down to compliance with label directions and also understanding the market risks associated with the MRLs."