Beechwood's Jeremy Bradley and Cathy Eggert pushing for Parra-Trooper return

Supporting Parra-Trooper: Ali O'Hea, Cathy Eggert and Millie Ituwabu supporting the Parra-Trooper petition during the weekend's Farm Gate Tours.
Supporting Parra-Trooper: Ali O'Hea, Cathy Eggert and Millie Ituwabu supporting the Parra-Trooper petition during the weekend's Farm Gate Tours.

A local small business has been devastated by an order from the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority that they stop selling, advertising and promoting their product.

The product, Parra Trooper, is a pure source of a naturally occurring fungus that helps cause a crown rot in an invasive pasture weed, Parramatta Grass.

Parramatta Grass, and other weedy Sporobolus grasses, have the potential to take over as much as 220 million hectares of land which is about 60 per cent of Queensland and 30 per cent of NSW.

Beechwood’s Cathy Eggert and Jeremy Bradley have been researching and developing their innovative product for the past four years and they are not giving up without a fight.

So far their campaign has included petitioning for change to the legislation, meeting with federal MP Dr David Gillespie and corresponding with deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce.

“Nigrospora is a widespread native soil fungus that breaks down dead organic materials and it is a soil improver,” said Ms Eggert.

“The fungus has been used by the department of primary industries for nearly two decades without any ‘off-target’ impacts. The DPI and local government weeds officers have been encouraging farmers to transplant infected plants to help control the devastating weed. Transplanting diseased tussocks can be a very slow process, however, and there are risks that this may spread other pests and diseases.

“The farming community had been waiting for the department to develop a Nigrospora product that could be sprayed on. Budget cuts to agricultural research by successive state governments stalled the project and made it unlikely that they would ever bring a useful spray to the market.

“When we realised that the DPI would never resource this product’s development we figured we’d better do something about it.” Ms Eggert said.

The Beechwood couple eventually put Parra-Trooper on the market in November 2015 with some ‘pretty impressive results’.

But the APVMA soon determined that their product was an unregistered agricultural chemical.

“It is ludicrous to say that a clump of grass and soil containing Nigrospora is alright to move around but a pure source of the fungus is a chemical,” she said.

“We are appealing for parliament to amend the legislation, so that naturally occurring native biological products are treated differently than manufactured chemicals.”

“Many land managers and farmers are very concerned about how they will manage these weeds without our product,” Ms Eggert said.

For information go to www.parra-trooper.com.au or call Cathy Eggert on 0448 562 024.