The Australian apple industry has identified pesticide use as a priority research area and wishes to pursue a strategy of reduced reliance on pesticides. Integrated pest management (IPM) offers a means of initiating this change. However, to date the level of IPM implementation in the Australian apple industry has been inconsistent. In part, this can be attributed to a lack of relevant IPM tools.
The purpose of this study has been to explore current pest management practices, levels of IPM adoption, and to evaluate and identify key components involved in grower decision making with respect to pest management. An action research approach, including semi-structured interviews, telephone surveys, and structured mail surveys, was conducted in the Stanthorpe, Orange, and Batlow apple districts of eastern Australia. The information generated indicates that IPM implementation, to date, has been driven through necessity, the result of the development of pesticide resistance, the weakness of current institutional linkages, and the fact that information provided to growers lacks value. Furthermore, the non-use of available IPM tools appears to stem, in part, from a perceived lack of the utility of IPM in terms of the key attributes that determine growers' pest management decision making, namely, cost, effectiveness, and ease of use.
The implications of these results are that current strategies have had limited impact, and that IPM tools, which satisfy those attributes and which growers perceive to be of value, need to be developed and promoted. On this basis an alternate approach focused on developing greater local participation to ensure relevance was identified. It is proposed that local partnerships, inclusive of all key stakeholders, be formed and that Industry Development Officers be appointed to provide coordination and continuity in the development and implementation of IPM in the Australian apple industry.