John Bostock knows more about biosecurity than perhaps the average grain grower. He has been a longstanding member of the Western Australian GrainGuard Council and was part of the team six years ago that worked with Plant Health Australia to develop the Industry Biosecurity Plan for the Grains Industry. For John, biosecurity is just a normal part of his day-to-day activities.
John and his son Richard operate a mixed farming enterprise of cropping and livestock on about 1500 hectares in the western high-rainfall zone of the central wheatbelt of Western Australia – although, as John notes wryly, ‘high rainfall’ is not a particularly accurate description of late.
The livestock enterprise is a Merino flock for medium to fine wool. John and Richard also run a mob for the prime lamb market. The main crops are wheat, oats, barley and canola in rotation.
Biosecurity and GrainGuard go hand in hand. GrainGuard is an initiative to boost WA’s quarantine, surveillance and emergency response capabilities, with the primary task of coordinating the identification of threats from endemic and exotic sources and to assess the potential impact on the local grains industry. WA grains biosecurity officer Jeff Russell also works with the GrainGuard program as its executive officer.
Being part of the GrainGuard working group has enabled John to raise issues he considers to be a threat to the Western Australian grains industry. He regards biosecurity as a part of good agronomic practices.
“People are much more mobile now and this increases the chances of spreading pests, diseases and weeds,” he says. “You just have to set up everyday practices that reduce the risk for your property.”
Controlling the spread of weeds is John’s main day-to-day biosecurity issue. The key weeds he deals with are the potentially herbicide-resistant weeds, such as ryegrass and radish. He monitors surrounding roadsides for any new weeds ‘sown’ by passing traffic.
John and Richard routinely require any seed or feedgrain coming on to the property to be as clean as possible. “We’ve seen how important that is from last year’s poor season, with radish seed contamination in lupins brought in for sheep feed – but cleaned before delivery.”
They manage weeds themselves, but John finds pests and diseases more challenging. “Having clean paddocks over summer helps to control diseases like rust, but we rely on advice from entomologists and pathologists to deal with other pests and diseases. We consult them as situations arise over the growing season.”
Coming into grain-fill John remains particularly vigilant, keeping an eye out for any pest and disease symptoms. Depending on the season, he can be looking for aphids or fungal diseases arising from late spring rains.
Other practices to reduce risk on their property include making sure that any contractors coming on to the farm have cleaned their machines. “We even make sure that trucks delivering fertiliser and loading grain are properly cleaned out in a suitable area before entering paddocks.”
Biosecurity also makes good economic sense, according to John. “The most expensive thing you could do is to ignore a pest threat. If you can nip it in the bud it avoids a new annual cost to the cropping enterprise. No farmer wants the extra cost of controlling a new pest that comes onto their property.”
More information: email Jeff Russell. To discuss biosecurity for your farm with your nearest grains biosecurity officer, contact Plant Health Australia, 02 6215 7700.
Article reproduced with the permission of the Australian Government Grains Research and Development Corporation.