Monitoring and surveillance across a farm involves looking for and recording the presence, absence and population levels of pests. Conducting regular monitoring is a fundamental part of farm management practice and gives the best chance of spotting a new pest soon after it arrives. Pest surveillance is necessary for:
Exotic pest eradication
Early detection of exotic pests improves the chance of eradication or containment within a region. However, if eradication or containment are not feasible, early detection in conjunction with contingency planning and preparedness by government and industry bodies (eg preparing emergency chemical registrations, permits for importation of biocontrol agents, awareness material and training in pest diagnostics), assists with a more rapid and effective response.
Export and interstate markets can require ‘evidence of absence’ data for exotic and some established pests that are of concern. The Australian plant production industries, in collaboration with governments, must prove through surveillance that pests of concern have been looked for and found to be absent.
Improved pest management
Management of established pests requires regular inspections to determine population levels to improve management decisions.
Pest status information
Surveillance at the farm level contributes essential information to regional biosecurity efforts and ultimately to the national status (presence/absence) of a pest.
All pest (exotic and established) surveillance activities carried out on your property should be recorded. These records can be used in the response to a pest outbreak and provide support to industry surveillance activities. The addition of exotic pests to current datasheets is an effective recording mechanism.
Organic standards require pest management practices to prevent pest incursions. Strategies include the removal of pest habitat, food sources and breeding areas, as well as preventing the access of pests to grain storage and processing areas. Monitoring strategies for pests are integral components of an Organic Management Plan and Organic Handling Plan.
Pest and disease monitoring tools can include the installation of traps (such as sticky, pheromone, pitfall and light traps), disease forecasting and modelling using weather data. Regular and thorough monitoring of weeds can prevent isolated plants turning into large incursions. Many organic farmers check their crops and pastures with a weeding hoe on hand.
An integrated approach to pest management is important in controlling unwanted pests within an organic farming system. One element might be encouraging beneficial insects or pathogens that naturally occur within your farming system, to prey on, parasitise or attack unwanted pests (beneficials). Knowing the beneficials that live on, or in the vicinity of, your farm can help to keep pest populations at levels that do not require control, or stop them from spreading onto your farm from neighbouring areas. Surveillance for beneficials can be as useful as monitoring pest populations.
Knowledge of the beneficials present around your farm may also lead to practices that can encourage them. This may involve including areas of plant species that encourage the build up of particular beneficials such as strips of a specific crop species or larger areas of trees along boundaries. Consider the insects you wish to encourage when you choose the species to plant. These plantings can have the additional benefit of providing a physical barrier between farms, to protect from spray drift or GMO contamination.
More information about surveillance strategies (and implementation plans) developed by the citrus, honey bee, forestry, grain, potato and tropical horticulture industries is available from the Surveillance section of the Plant Health Australia website.