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TAS Country : February 2nd 2012
uary 3, 2012 13 Industry in full bloom FIELDS OF GOLD: Flowering pyrethrum crops carpet the paddocks along Tasmania's North West Coast. Pictures: KAROLIN MacGREGOR Multi-million dollar crop is in demand Pyrethrum is a very good product because it's environmentally friendly, it's very safe because it's non toxic to people and animals, and it breaks down in sunlight' system to move product between storage and the processing areas. The company now has the capacity to store about 2000 tonnes of product ready for processing. A new extraction plant, which has almost double the capacity of the previous plant, has been commissioned. Pyrethrum daisies are native to the Dalmatian coast and are found in Croatia and Yugoslavia. Inside the seeds of the flowers are pyrethrins, which are highly effective as a natural insecticide. Once extracted, pyrethrids were an essential ingredient used in many brands of insect spray. ''For a lot of companies pyrethrum is a very good product because it's environmentally friendly, it's very safe because it's non toxic to people and animals, and it breaks down in sunlight,'' he said. ''The regulations on producing insecticides are so stringent now, to make sure the products are safe, so for a lot of companies a supply of natural pyrethrum is essential.'' He said this season about 3000ha of crop will be harvested. While initially most of the state's pyrethrum crops were grown in the North West, nowadays the company has crops across the state from the Fingal Valley right through to Winnaleah in the North East and Lileah in the North West. BRA also grew about 350ha of crop at Ballarat in Victoria this season. About 35 harvesters are due to roll out into paddocks in the next few weeks. Mr Groom said once the crops were windrowed ready for drying, it took about two weeks before they were ready for harvesting. Once harvested the flowers are pelletised at the BRA plant ready for storage. Mr Groom said a major advantage of the crop was that the pyrethrids were not water soluble, so small amounts of rain would not affect quality. The pyrethrum pellets are then put through the first stage extraction process using specific solvents which produces a liquid product called Oleo resin. The resin is then put through another extraction process using liquid carbon dioxide. This removes all the waxes leaving the pyrethrins. Highly potent, one hectare of pyrethrum can produce enough product to make between 50,000 and 60,000 cans of insect spray. While there have been some major advances in the crop agronomics, Mr Groom said pyrethrum was still a tricky crop to grow. After planting, which normally occurs in late winter or early spring, the first pyrethrum daisies will be harvested about 18 month later. Mr Groom said with good management and conditions it was possible to get between three and four harvests of an individual paddock. Controlling weeds still remains one of the most difficult aspects of growing pyrethrum crops successfully. Mr Groom said they were tackling this issue however by changing their growing strategy so that crops are harvested just once, before either being replaced with a new pyrethrum crop, or something else. ''It's a new way of doing things but we're getting some quite good results.'' Mr Groom said advances in weed control technology could also help. A machine which is able to recognise individual weeds in a paddock and spray them was already being used in other horticulture industries inters- ate and could be a possibility for pyrethrum, he said. Pyrethrum plants do not cope with waterlogged soils, and grow best in free draining areas. To overcome the problem in wetter regions, such as the northern Midlands, the crop is grown on raised beds. A significant increase in research and develop- ment investment by the company has gone hand in hand with the industry's expansion. There are now seven people working in BRA's research team. All up the company has about 65 employees. After well timed spring rains and a warm start to summer, Mr Groom said they were hoping for a good harvest season this year. ''It's looking pretty good at the moment, so hopefully as long as we don't get the sort of rain we had last year, it should go well,'' he said.
January 26th 2012
February 9th 2012