Rats are one of the cane industry's most persistent pests, costing growers millions in lost revenue each year. CANEGROWERS has gained approval for growers to drop baits into their crop from the air.
In dry years rat numbers can reach biblical proportions and the infestation of lodged cane has proven almost impossible to treat so its hoped the recent approval of a minor use permit for aerial baiting of rats by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicine Authority (APVMA) will tip the scales back in the industry's favour.
The permit is the result of months of consultation and trial work by CANEGROWERS' Manager for Environment and Sustainability, Matt Kealley.
“CANEGROWERS applied for aerial baiting permit in response to a population boom in lodged cane in the Mackay and Herbert River regions that looked set to cost the industry millions of dollars," he said.
“Unseasonal winter rain also helped weeds to grow creating perfect conditions for two species of native rat to thrive during 2016.
“While growers can bait for these rats in sugarcane, the conditions meant they couldn’t get into their paddocks to place baits by hand, leaving the rats to cause significant damage.”
Rats gnaw cane stalks off at the base, causing the cane to deteriorate and compromising the sugar content. In 2016 alone, the cost of rat damage in the Mackay and Herbert River districts was estimated to be more than $6 million.
“With around 500,000 tonnes of big standover cane left behind after rain stopped the harvest, the rats are still having a feast and that’s going to impact on the 2017 season,” Mr Kealley said.
CANEGROWERS worked closely with Animal Control Technologies (manufacturer of the approved bait Rattoff®), chemical registration consultancy DeGroot Technical Services, Herbert Cane Productivity Services Limited (HCPSL) and Mackay Area Productivity Services (MAPS) to progress a Minor Use Permit through the APVMA.
The APVMA has approved a permit to enable Rattoff® application to lodged sugarcane crops via helicopter or UAV.
“This permit covers up to 10,000 hectares in the Herbert and Mackay districts for 2017,” Mr Kealley said. “We had to demonstrate to the APVMA that distributing Rattoff® sachets by air would not poison other species.
“We showed them what lodged cane looks like and explained that the dull-coloured sachets would fall through the stalks to the ground making them less visible and less accessible to birds but available to the rats.
“Birds of prey have little risk of being poisoned with Rattoff® and its formulation minimises risks to the environment.”