As floodwaters recede and producers work to bring their enterprises back into relative ‘order’ and productive capacity, there are numerous new biosecurity challenges to be overcome and future risks to look out for.
Pests: Insect pressure on all cyclone and flood-affected agricultural enterprises will rise significantly; warm and humid conditions in conjunction with damaged plants and stressed animals are ideal for insect proliferation.
Crop pest researcher Hugh Brier, from the Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI), said the extra rain presented many challenges for farmers. “The problem arises not only because some pest insects like the conditions and the increased moisture favours the development of early season crop and weed hosts, but also because farmers cannot ‘sample’ their crops for bugs as often as they need to.”
“Every opportunity must be taken to sample crops when the opportunity arises. If you know what the likely pests and their damage symptoms look like in advance, you will be better placed to manage them effectively. “
Weeds: With high soil moisture levels, successful weed emergence and opportunistic growth can be assured in pastures, crops, orchards, along roadsides and in conservation areas; and control efforts will need to be enhanced and targeted to ‘win the weed war’.
Landholders should be especially mindful of weeds arriving from upstream districts in floodwaters. Biosecurity Queensland spokesman Dr Rick Whittle says flooding can easily spread rarely-seen toxic plant seeds that result in new infestations. He says if producers notice any unusual weeds being grazed or behavioural changes in livestock, it is important to seek advice urgently.
Diseases: Vets and agronomists are suggesting producers actively monitor their livestock and crops for disease. Early detection of problems will help reduce the spread of infection within and between livestock. Significant losses can occur as infectious, nutritional and insect-borne disease become more prevalent. Precautions need to be taken against feeding spoiled hay when providing supplements for hungry stock to avoid grain poisoning and scouring outbreaks.
NSW’s Livestock Health and Pest Authority New England district veterinarian, Dr Lisa Martin, says “Where possible, producers should try to take preventative steps such as vaccinating cattle and sheep against infectious diseases.” Sheep producers should also observe correct vaccination protocols and employ strategic drenching for internal parasite control.