Orchards in Manjimup and Pemberton are part of a new four-year research project aiming to boost exports of Western Australian apples to valuable northern Asian markets by establishing pest management credentials.
The Horticulture Innovation-funded project between the WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD), CSIRO and industry body Pomewest is looking at systematic pest management and monitoring to access new export markets.
Department senior researcher Kim James said most apples produced in WA were consumed locally and industry was keen to develop Asian markets including China and Japan.
“The WA apple industry offers counter seasonal supply, close proximity to Asian and Middle East markets, clean and safe produce, backed by a robust regulatory framework,” Mr James said.
“However, the export of fresh fruit to some countries is limited by quarantine restrictions.
“This project will evaluate a ‘systems approach’, which involves a number of measures to provide the level of protection from a specific pest or disease that an importing country requires.”
The WA case study is part of a broader national collaboration between industry, researchers and regulators to help Australian horticultural businesses realise export market opportunities by developing a systems approach.
Mr James said the South-West project would involve surveillance for pests such as fruit fly and moths, and assess a range of measures which could satisfy trading partners of an acceptable level of protection.
“Systems approaches consider the combined effect of monitoring programs, good in-field management, grading in the packinghouse and other steps that are part of good agricultural practice,” he said.
“With the right verification processes, we could demonstrate that fruit export is acceptable to these markets without substantially increasing the cost of production.”
The project will involve a surveillance network of about 180 traps across 19 orchards and 14 town sites in Manjimup and Pemberton to monitor for pests including Mediterranean fruit fly, light brown apple moth and Western fruit moth.
Mr James said surveillance was important not only in finding pests, but also demonstrating absence of pests.
“The project will collect data from two or more measures with a systems approach, which will be analysed and modelled by CSIRO to produce supporting evidence for market access applications,” he said.
Pome fruit are a significant fruit crop in WA, grown mainly in the South West region and Perth Hills and surrounds, with farm gate production worth about $45 million each year. A small percentage of production is exported.
Pomewest Chair Harvey Giblett said the Western Australian pome fruit industry supported the project to identify new market opportunities for apples from the state.
“The pome industry is recognising and investing in these type of projects,” Mr Giblett said.
“Export is a necessary focus and the opportunity to open markets is the key to ensure healthy and sustainable futures for our orchardists.”