Courier Mail, The (Brisbane), 10/08/2002, pg. 17

BUYERS have rejected sorghum from at least a dozen Darling Downs growers after their crops were found to be contaminated by a chemical used on cotton crops.

The chemical is organo phosphate profenofos, an active ingredient in several cotton sprays used in the third stage of the crop to control the pest heliothis.

Profenofos is not registered for use on sorghum and is toxic to the plant, leaving red spots on the leaves, but is undetectable in the grain except through chemical residue testing.

The DPI is investigating the extent of the contamination and is due to report its findings in two to three weeks.

Profenofos contamination was first detected in a feed mix at Australia Meat Holdings feedlot at Purrawunda about 30km west of Toowoomba, which alerted authorities.

The feedlot has strict quality controls for grain used in its cattle feedlot for the export beef market, including a zero tolerance of profenofos in sorghum.

Australia’s maximum residue limit for profenofos in meat is .05mg/kg.

In May, when laboratories testing grain quality detected the first contamination of last summer’s crop, the matter was referred to DPI Toowoomba animal and plant inspector Rowan Lambourne.

Mr Lambourne said the contaminated crops were in isolated clumps or individual properties from Jondaryan west to Dalby and south to Cecil Plains.

Spray drift has been blamed for the contamination because the chemical was detected in sorghum crops grown on farms which do not grow cotton.

Chemicals containing profenofos include the trade name sprays Curacron, Profenn, Tital, Sabre, Prochem, Phantom and Grizzly.

Cotton Australia grower services manager Andrew Luhrs said the DPI had told the organisation about the problem, but AgForce grains president Terry Sharp said no graingrowers had alerted him about spray drift.

The DPI is visiting all producers whose grain tested positive to profenofos and plans a series of grower meetings to try to find solutions to the spray drift problem before next season. At least six
more producers whose grain has tested positive have not been contacted because test results have not yet reached the DPI.

Mr Lambourne said the sources of the contamination had not been identified and may remain a mystery, but both aerial and ground rig sprayings of cotton were involved.

“We have spoken to Cotton Australia and spray operators to see what the industry can do to prevent this problem,” Mr Lambourne said.

Levels detected were extremely low and the grain could still be sold even though some buyers had rejected it, he said.

The difficulty for growers was that if they had contracted to sell grain, they would have to buy clean grain to fulfil their contract despite receiving lower returns for their contaminated grain.

Copyright 2002 / Courier Mail