National Residue Survey 2019–20 Grains

​Publication details

Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, December 2020




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Key points

  • In 2019–2020, the overall compliance with Australian standards was 99.2 percent.
  • Australian grain producers and handlers continue to demonstrate a high degree of good agricultural practice.
  • The National Residue Survey’s quality management system is ISO 9001:2015 certified.

The National Residue Survey (NRS) operates within the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment and since 1992 has been funded by industries through levies and direct contracts.

The NRS is an essential part of Australia’s pesticide and veterinary medicine residue management framework providing verification of good agricultural practice in support of chemical control-of-use legislation and guidelines.

NRS programs monitor the levels of, and associated risks from, pesticides and veterinary medicine residues and contaminants in Australian food products. The programs help to facilitate and encourage ongoing access to domestic and export markets. NRS supports Australia’s primary producers and food processors who provide quality animal, grain and horticulture products which meet both Australian and relevant international standards.

Grains program overview

Since 1993, the NRS grains program has been funded by the NRS component of the statutory levy on grains. The program involves the sampling and testing of Australian export and domestic traded grains for a range of pesticides and environmental contaminants. Representative samples are collected at export out-turn and domestic receival.

The program covers cereal grains (barley, maize, oat, sorghum, triticale, wheat, wheat durum), pulses (chickpea, cowpea, faba bean, field pea, lentil, lupin, mung bean, navy bean, pigeon pea, soybean and vetch), and oilseeds (canola, linseed, safflower, sunflower). The milled fractions of wheat, wheat durum, soybean and maize are included in the milled grains program.

Sample collection

On average, approximately 6000 grain samples are collected per annum at bulk export terminals, container export packers, oilseed crushers, feed mills, flour mills, feedlots and food processors. The number of samples collected is influenced by Australian production levels and export markets. A breakdown of samples collected per crop group and sample program in 2019–20 is provided in Table 1.

Once collected, grain samples are freighted to the contract laboratory for analysis. All data collected is entered into the NRS Information Management System and residue testing reports are automatically generated for program participants.

Analytical screens

Analytical screens are developed in consultation with the industry and take into account chemicals registered in Australia, chemical residue profiles and overseas market requirements.

Grain samples are screened for a range of insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and environmental contaminants, as shown in Table 2.


In 2019–20, a total of 4,231 samples were collected for analysis. The results were compared with the Australian standards and export samples were compared with the relevant international standards.

A summary of compliance with Australian standards for bulk export, container export and domestic trade programs over the past five years is provided in Table 3. The results highlight excellent compliance with Australian standards and demonstrate the strong commitment of the grains industry to good agricultural practice. The consistently high compliance rates help maintain the reputation and integrity of Australian grains in international and domestic markets.

The yearly summary datasets for the grains program are located on the department’s website

Table 1. Summary of grain samples collected per crop group and program in 2019-20
Crop Group Bulk export program Container export program Domestic trade program
Cereals 1928 756 753
Oilseed 230 39 126
Pulses 53 335 11
Total 2211 1130 890


Table 2. Analytical screens for the grains program
Analytical screen Chemical group Analytes
Multi-residue pesticide screen Insecticide 90 analytes including acephate, abamectin, bifenthrin, diazinon, malathion, pyrethrin and spinosad
Fungicides 56 analytes including azoxystrobin, boscalid, captan, iprodione, fludioxonil and propiconazole
Herbicides 59 analytes including atrazine, bromacil, clopyralid, isoxaben, norflurazon and simazine
Organochlorines aldrin and dieldrin, chlordane, DDT, endosulfan, endrin, HCB, heptachlor, lindane (gamma HCH) and mirex
Specific herbicides Herbicides amitrole, dichlorprop-P, diclofop-methyl, diquat, fenoxaprop-ethyl, flamprop-M-methyl, fluazifop-p-butyl, glufosinate, glyphosate, haloxyfop, paraquat, quizalofop ethyl and quizalofop-p-tefuryl



Table 3. Compliance rates for the past five years relative to Australian standards
Years Bulk export program Container export program Domestic trade program
Samples collected Compliance rates (%) Samples collected Compliance rates (%) Samples collected Compliance rates (%)
2015–16 2,900 99.8 2,284 98.9 1,006 96.1
2016–17 4,166 99.8 3,755 99.0 892 97.3
2017–18 2,948 99.8 2,029 99.0 880 97.4
2018–19 2,426 99.6 979 98.3 854 98.2
2019–20 2, 211 99.7 1,130 99.3 890 97.7


Laboratory selection and performance

The NRS contracts laboratories to analyse animal and plant product samples for pesticide/veterinary medicine residues and environmental contaminants.

Laboratories are selected through the Australian Government tendering process on the basis of their proficiency and value for money. Laboratories must be accredited to international standard ISO/IEC 17025 at commencement of testing.

Contracted laboratories are proficiency tested by the NRS to ensure the validity of their analytical results and technical competence.

The NRS has been accredited by the National Association of Testing Authorities as a proficiency test provider since July 2005.

International export markets

The NRS maintains information on maximum residue limits (MRLs) that apply for Australia and major export markets for industries supported by the NRS. All analysis results are checked for compliance with Australian standards and relevant international MRLs.

For the Australian MRL standard see (use the latest version).

For MRL requirements for some international export markets see links at

Last reviewed: 22 December 2020
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