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

Minimising biosecurity risks when employing harvesting contractors

February 6, 2015
Harvesting Grapes

To stop the spread of diseases, pests and weeds, ensure that equipment brought onto your property at harvest time is washed down and disinfected before coming into contact with your crops.

At this time of year, many fruit producers will have contractors on their property to help with harvesting activities. If care is not taken, contractors can spread diseases, pests and weed seeds on their clothing, equipment and vehicles as they move from farm-to-farm and region-to-region. If armed with the necessary information your contractors can be an important part of the solution for maintaining good biosecurity on your farm.

Alison Saunders, Manager for Biosecurity Planning and Implementation at Plant Health Australia, says that biosecurity signs are a good way to alert people to your requirements and of the potential risk that their visit poses to your business. From the minute contractors enter your farm they will know you take biosecurity seriously.

Parking restrictions will limit any problems posed by their vehicles. Ask contractors to stay on formed roads or laneways wherever possible to limit the spread of pests and weeds.

“Before the contractor starts work, ask them to sign a visitor register, and record information like where they have come from and where they plan to go when they leave your property.”

“Workers who have recently been overseas may be a particularly high biosecurity threat, especially if they have visited crops, farms, orchards or markets where plant material was sold.”

“All workers will need to be very aware of your biosecurity needs. Once your workers have signed your visitor register, this is an ideal opportunity to take your new staff through a biosecurity checklist,” advises Alison.

The ‘come clean: go clean’ is a key concept for your contractors to keep in mind, whether you are referring to:

  • personal hygiene (washing hands, keeping clothes, hats, socks and footwear free of weed seeds and soil)
  • cleaning vehicles (restricting vehicle movement to designated areas or  providing washdown bays for harvesting machinery) or
  • keeping equipment clean (cleaning and disinfecting equipment such as pruning equipment between trees, rows of trees and definitely between orchards).

Going clean is another important biosecurity consideration at harvest time, especially when your produce is leaving the property. Wash and disinfect harvest bins and equipment and ensure there is no leaf litter present when produce leaves the property.

“Finally, take the time to make your workers familiar with the signs of common pests and diseases and know how to report anything unusual. Let them know how important reporting is to be able to respond quickly to a potential problem.”


Orchard biosecurity checklist

Visitor register