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

Top 10 tips to improve biosecurity at harvest time

February 16, 2018
Biosecurity sign on gate

To control people and vehicle movement, limit the number of access points to your property and lock unused gates

Harvest is usually the season when extra activity on your property can create additional biosecurity risks for your farm.

According to Rod Turner, General Manager, Preparedness and R&D at Plant Health Australia, every movement onto your farm risks bringing in hitchhiking pests and weeds.

“People who come into production areas to pick fruit can pose a risk. Harvesting machinery and equipment might be brought in at this time too and these are also potential carriers of unwanted pests and diseases. Trucks that visit to take away the produce can also transfer pests and diseases from property to property,” Rod said.

“Luckily all of these extra risks at harvest time can be reduced with on-farm biosecurity measures.”

Include advice about biosecurity in your induction session with casual staff around harvest time

Include advice about biosecurity in your induction session with casual staff around harvest time

Rod recommends the following harvest biosecurity measures.

  • Multiple, unsecured entry points make it difficult to control visitor access and manage high risk visitors such as those travelling from other farms or those who visit multiple properties each day. Limit the number of access points to your property, locking unused gates.
  • Use signs to direct visitors to designated parking or reception areas and provide a phone number if you’re often out during the day.
  • Only permit access to production areas to personnel who need to be there.
  • It’s a good idea to conduct a visitor risk assessment before you allow someone new into your production areas, since visitors can carry diseases, pests and weed seeds on their clothing and personal items. In particular, if they’ve recently been overseas or come from another property they pose increased risk. If required, provide cleaning facilities or a change of clothes or boots to reduce the risk.
  • Not everyone who visits will realise how easy it is to spread pests and weeds. Hold induction sessions for seasonal workers to make sure they know about your on-farm biosecurity requirements. Tell them to keep an eye out for anything unusual and make sure that all your staff know to report anything they are concerned about.
  • Keep a register of visitors who have been on your property to allow investigators to trace the origin and spread of a new pest incursion.
  • Tools and equipment such as harvesters and bins can carry pests and weed seeds, so take particular care to inspect and clean them, especially if they are borrowed or were purchased second hand.
  • All parts of a vehicle can carry pests, so it is important that any vehicles that need to access growing areas are washed before entering. Collect run-off from wash areas in a sump or direct it away from production areas. Monitor surrounding areas for signs of pests and weeds and treat weeds before they set seed.
  • Consider the risks posed by trucks coming onto your property to collect produce, especially if they have already picked up produce from another property. Ideally, trucks should be empty and clean, but limiting access to production areas is also recommended.
  • Ask all visitors to stay on established roads or tracks and monitor surrounding areas for signs of new pests or weeds.

Rod Turner points out that these measures are not expensive, and anyone can do them.

“While on-farm biosecurity might take a bit more of your time, it’s a worthwhile investment. You only have to consider the costs of a new pest or weed incursion to realise that,” he said.

For more information on how to protect your property with biosecurity measures go to farmbiosecurity.com.au/essentials-toolkit/