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

Room for improvement in agronomists’ biosecurity practices

March 9, 2012

Boots and sandy footprintA recent survey of agronomists and consultants servicing the Victorian grains industry showed that while they have a good level of knowledge about the exotic plant pest threats faced by the industry, they are not putting into place simple biosecurity practices that could prevent the spread of pests from property to property.

The online study carried out by Plant Health Australia and the Victorian Department of Primary Industries surveyed 50 agronomists and consultants from across the state.

Victorian Grains Industry Biosecurity Officer Jim Moran said the consultants who completed the survey came from every corner of Victoria and worked with 17 different crops.

“This means they’re visiting thousands of paddocks every year across the state employing biosecurity practices that are not up to scratch” Mr Moran said.

“The survey showed that over three-quarters would report anything unusual to authorities. A similar proportion knew the location of high pressure water or air cleaners. But it’s quite staggering that only 10% ensure their boots and clothes are disinfected when entering or leaving a property, only 30% did the same for their vehicles, and only half kept a note of their visits, which can be important for trace back.”

According to Mr Moran, excellent hygiene practices are required to prevent the establishment and spread of any new pest or disease across Victoria.

“We need to see improvement in vigilance and care by consultants, with a strict clean-on/clean-off policy” he said.

“Consultants who hold field days and trials should be taking additional precautions to minimise biosecurity risks.”

Mr Moran recommends using designated parking areas, boot wash stations, keeping records of all visitors to the site, preventing unauthorised access and ongoing monitoring for unusual pests and diseases.

To improve biosecurity practices in Victoria, Jim Moran is offering to arrange WEEDSTOP training in the fundamentals of hygiene practice.

“This will raise the number of consultants with WEEDSTOP accreditation in the industry and promote the principles of on-farm biosecurity and accountability,” Mr Moran said.

“Farmers can now request an agricultural contractor with WEEDSTOP accreditation through Australian Agricultural Contractors Association, but I’d like to see agronomists and consultants also obtaining the qualification and promoting it.”

“This will provide further assurance to clients that they’re doing everything appropriate to keep pests and diseases off the farm. It’s a fantastic but practical marketing advantage” said Mr Moran.

For more information about farm biosecurity, to obtain a free biosecurity farm fence sign or a copy of the Grains Farm Biosecurity Manual, contact Jim Moran at DPI Bendigo on 03 5430 4479. He will also answer questions about WEEDSTOP accreditation for consultants, agronomists and contractors, and arrange training.