A recent survey of Victorian grain growers revealed that producers are leaving the industry open to plant pest incursions. The online survey, carried out by Plant Health Australia (PHA) and the Victorian Department of Primary Industries, gave insight into the industry’s current biosecurity practices and awareness.
It revealed a high level of knowledge of the threats faced by the grains industry but a low adherence to biosecurity practices that prevent the establishment and spread of any new pest or disease.
According to Jim Moran, the Victorian grains industry biosecurity officer, the results show a level of exposure to a biosecurity incursion which is of concern.
“PHA produced a Grains Farm Biosecurity Manual which explains the practices that farmers should be doing to reduce their biosecurity risks,” he said. “But not everyone is following them. For example, only 45 per cent of farmers are vigilant observers for new weeds, pests and diseases and said that they would contact their agronomist or consultant if something unusual was spotted.”
“About three-quarters of respondents indicated they control the movement of people, livestock, machinery and fodder onto their property, which is excellent for preventing anything establishing, but only 55 per cent ensure that footwear and equipment are disinfected and free from foreign matter. This means they could easily import a new pest,” said Mr Moran.
“We need to see improvement in the number of growers having a clean on/clean off policy, restricted vehicle access to their farm, an adequate inspection regime for machinery, a designated quarantine area for feeding out imported fodder and keeping useful records of all visits to the property.”
“It was encouraging that all respondents indicated that they are members of a grower group,” Mr Moran continued, “because these organisations can really help to raise biosecurity awareness and provide growers with the latest biosecurity information.”
To improve biosecurity practices in Victoria, Jim Moran is offering training for the grains industry in the fundamentals of farm hygiene practice. “This will raise the numbers of people with WEEDSTOP accreditation in the industry and promote the principles of on-farm biosecurity and accountability,” Mr Moran said.
Farmers can already request a contractor with WEEDSTOP accreditation but he’d like to see agronomists and consultants also obtaining the qualification. “This will provide further assurance to clients that they’re doing everything appropriate to keep pests and diseases off the farm,” Mr Moran said.
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 take all queries about WEEDSTOP accreditation for consultants, agronomists and contractors and arrange training.
The winner of the disinfectant boot wash was Eileen Jorgensen from Murtoa whose name was drawn from all those who completed the survey. Eileen is pictured at her front gate behind the biosecurity fence sign, a key component in the farm’s biosecurity strategy.
Eileen said that she has in place adequate preventative measures but can always improve. After completing the biosecurity survey, Eileen requested a farm fence sign and Farm Biosecurity Manual. She supports the idea of WEEDSTOP accreditation for contractors and agronomists, providing assurance to clients that hygiene standards are being met.