Nuffield study looks at best practice for managing MRLs

Grain Central July 8, 2024

Tessa Dimond conducted a study into Maximum Residue Limits for chemicals and their impact on grain exports. Photo: Nuffield

ST GEORGE agronomist Tessa Dimond has criss-crossed the globe to uncover insights critical for Australian grain growers to maintain their market access amid demanding international standards.

A 2023 Nuffield Scholar supported by GrainCorp, Ms Dimond conducted an extensive study into the complexities of Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) for agricultural chemicals and their impact on Australian grain exports.

Her research explored the best practices and challenges faced by grain producers worldwide.

“The Australian grain industry is vital to our national economy, with 60-70 percent of our production aimed at export markets,” Ms Dimond said.

“Navigating the complexities of MRLs is crucial to maintaining these international markets, especially with the EU’s aggressive stance on reducing pesticide usage by 2030.”

Ms Dimond’s journey took her to Canada, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, Ireland, France, Poland, The Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

In these countries, she examined how different regions manage MRLs, and their impact on trade.

Ms Dimond said a significant focus was on the European Union’s standards and how Australian growers can align their practices to avoid trade disruptions.

“The challenge lies in balancing Australia’s risk-based MRL framework with the hazard-based approach of other countries.

“Our industry must continue to prioritise sustainable farming practices and innovative technologies to meet these standards.”

Precision ag benefits

Ms Dimond’s research highlights the importance of precision agriculture and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in reducing chemical residues and enhancing sustainability.

She emphasises the need for effective communication and traceability throughout the supply chain, ensuring that bulk handlers play a significant role in maintaining grain quality and compliance with MRLs.

“Major companies like Kellogg’s and Nestlé are setting goals to reduce pesticide usage in their supply chains.

“Australian growers must adapt to these evolving demands while maintaining efficient food production.”

Her report underscores the industry’s commitment to aligning with global sustainability movements, such as the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

Common agricultural practices in the Australian grains industry like minimal tillage, crop rotations, and variable rate application are essential to improve soil health and biodiversity, and help the industry meet diverse international standards.

Her findings also highlight the critical role of the National Residue Survey (NRS) in supporting the Australian grain industry by providing independent testing and insights to reduce export risks.

“The NRS helps us understand how to manage residues better and keep our reputation for high-quality, clean grain intact.”

GrainCorp’s general manager of sustainability Mick Anderson said Ms Dimond’s research was highly valuable for growers, customers and the broader industry.

“GrainCorp’s role at the heart of the supply chain provides opportunities to work with growers and customers to explore ways to minimise chemical use while enhancing farm productivity and maintaining food safety standards and quality,” Mr Anderson said.

“Tessa’s research underscores the need for effective communication and engagement with growers to meet the different and often changing MRL standards, which is a key component of our grower engagement program.

“We’ve been really impressed with what Tessa’s achieved throughout her Nuffield journey and are excited to see where her research takes her.”

Reflecting on her Nuffield journey, Ms Dimond acknowledges the personal and professional growth she experienced.

“The scholarship pushed me to overcome my fear of public speaking and grow into a more confident, independent thinker.

“It also made me part of a global network of agricultural professionals who continue to inspire and share knowledge.”

Tessa will be presenting her research findings at Nuffield Australia’s National Conference being held in Launceston, Tasmania, on September 2-4.

Source: Nuffield Australia


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