Providing practical information to help you protect your farm from biosecurity risks

Grain producers aware and alert to biosecurity on-farm

June 4, 2014

Grain silosResults of a major producer survey reveal that Australia’s crop and livestock producers have a growing awareness of their role in preventing or controlling diseases, pests and weeds.

More than 1200 plant, grain and livestock farmers participated in the survey commissioned by Farm Biosecurity, giving a comprehensive picture of Australian producers’ attitudes and biosecurity practices.

Given the number of grain or grain/livestock producers in Australia, these were two major subgroups of producers who participated in the survey.

Building on similar research undertaken in 2010, the survey gives an idea of the growing awareness and knowledge of producers about biosecurity.

Brad Siebert, Program Manager of Biosecurity Planning and Implementation at PHA, said: “It was heartening to discover that around 90 percent of grain growers defined biosecurity as ‘measures taken to protect farm production from diseases, pests and weeds’, the highest response of any group of producers.”

“Australian grain growers seem to understand what biosecurity is and recognise that they have a role to play in the Australian biosecurity continuum,” he said.

Producers across the two surveys see border protection and quarantine as being important in the prevention of exotic pests and diseases entering Australia.

But more now realise that they have an active role to play in supporting biosecurity efforts against endemic diseases, pests and weeds in their region by managing biosecurity risks on-farm.

“Good biosecurity is fundamental to successful farming, and it doesn’t need to be onerous or expensive. It can be as simple as keeping records, limiting visitor contact with crops and livestock, or washing your boots,” said Mr Siebert.

The answers to a range of questions support the idea that more and more producers are diversifying their activities, growing or stocking a wider range of plants and animals.

For example, just under one quarter of producers grew and stored grain on their property that was not sold to generate income. The incidence was particularly high among those who would normally be defined as sheep or cattle producers.

“This has the effect of minimising the inputs required and the biosecurity risks associated with bringing livestock feed in from elsewhere. But it also means that there are people now growing grains who are new to the industry who could benefit from biosecurity advice about growing and storing grains,” said Mr Siebert.

When asked what information about biosecurity producers needed access to, the top requests were for biosecurity alerts and warnings, and identifying pest and disease types and symptoms. The apparent need for alerts and warnings has grown considerably since 2010.

More than 80 per cent of producers monitored their own crops or livestock. While grain producers reported similar levels of monitoring by themselves, family or staff, more than half also used an agronomist or cropping consultant.

Over half of grain producers kept records of their monitoring, and 80 per cent of those were willing to share the records of their monitoring.

According to Mr Siebert this is good news: “The data that producers are collecting and are willing to share can feed into national surveillance programs that support continued access to grain markets that rely on formal pest-freedom statements.”

Overall, 97 percent of producers said they would report a new pest or disease found on their property, but many were unsure who to report it to.

If you spot anything unusual in your crops or livestock, call the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881 or the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888.