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Set up a successful season with area-wide biosecurity tactics

Germinated grain dumped at roadside stops causes a biosecurity problem by providing a green bridge for pests and diseases to survive and infect new crops.
Photo: Plant Health Australia

Summer is in full swing and it is the perfect time to implement area-wide biosecurity tactics. Setting the season up correctly with practical farm biosecurity practices will safeguard market access, reduce the risk of pests and diseases and ensure the safety, quality and integrity of crops.

Area-wide management (AWM) is a proven method to manage pests on a large scale in Australia, with growers collectively engaging in pest management in a geographic area rather than individually. AWM is specifically effective in managing pests with a wide geographic spread and host range.

According to the integrated pest management (IPM) guidelines for grains, a joint initiative by the Queensland Government and GRDC, the objectives of AWM are to:

  1. reduce overall pest pressure in participating regions by manipulating the size of the local population; and
  2. manage insecticide resistance through coordinated rotation of insecticide groups.

“Attempting biosecurity management in isolation to neighbouring farms can create weaknesses that are easily breached,” says Victorian grains biosecurity officer Jim Moran.

“There are simple, low-cost biosecurity measures that growers and their neighbours can adopt now to set them up for a successful and profitable year,” Mr Moran says.

Pests, weeds and diseases don’t respect farm boundaries, so all properties in the local area need to work together and show a united front when it comes to biosecurity. Biosecurity is everybody’s business.

He recommends growers treat farm biosecurity the same as the development of a local fire or salinity plan or an area-wide cooperative for mice, weeds or rabbit control. Useful planning tools include the Farm Biosecurity Toolkit to implement biosecurity measures, as well as FarmPlan 21 in Victoria, satellite imagery and drones.

“Take the area-wide approach to the locality, catchment, district level or other geographic features such as valleys or mountains or simply a group of dedicated neighbours.”

This approach facilitates greater coordination of biosecurity activities beyond an individual farm boundary and across a broader local area. Removing the ‘green bridge’ that connects adjoining cropping paddocks on all properties by spraying weeds and volunteer plants before sowing will break the pest, weed and disease cycle and is more effective if coordinated over large areas.

“This method ensures no green vegetation link exists between any cropped paddocks, roadsides and new cropping paddocks to host problems. It stops seed, spores and insects surviving and moving from previous season’s crops to the next,” Mr Moran says.

Growers also need to be alert to roadside grain dumping. Report it and encourage all transporters in the area to stop littering and, if possible, clean up.

Grain dumping is a biosecurity hazard as it provides an untreated and unmonitored haven for insects, diseases and other pests to thrive.

"It becomes a green bridge for pests and diseases once germinated. These can be blown or carried into all properties in the area,” he says.

By installing free biosecurity gate signs in an area-wide effort, visitors will be cautioned to meet hygiene standards before entering properties. “Help each other to uphold biosecurity standards and inform each other of breaches.”

Another step is the coordination of an area-wide machinery wash-down facility on one or more properties with a high-pressure washer and air blower to keep vehicles and machinery clean, on and off the property.

In addition, it would be beneficial to coordinate the use of an alternative wash-down location as part of the AWM effort. A wash-down facility at a livestock market, shire council depot, transport company depot, bulk grain receival site, government agency depot or fire station will ensure dirty equipment and machinery do not enter local properties.

For a free biosecurity gate sign, a free copy of the Grains Farm Biosecurity Manual and more information on best practice grains biosecurity, farm hygiene tactics and exotic pest threats, visit Plant Health Australia's Grains Farm Biosecurity Program and Grains Biosecurity.

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