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Biosecurity officers help protect industry from key threats

Grains Biosecurity Officers play a major role in protecting Australia’s grains industry from biosecurity threats.
Photo: PHA

Grains biosecurity officers (GBOs) are at the forefront of protecting Australia’s $19.1 billion grains industry by helping growers manage biosecurity risks at a farm and industry level.

This valuable work is a core part of the Grains Farm Biosecurity Program, which seeks to enhance the management of and readiness for biosecurity hazards in the grains industry at the farm and industry levels.

Working closely with growers and others in the grain supply chain, specialist biosecurity officers operate in each of the five grain growing regions in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia and provide grain growers with the latest biosecurity tools, resources and advice. The GBOs work with grain growers and share simple ways they can reduce the risks posed by pests, diseases and weeds on their farms.

According to Stuart Kearns, Plant Health Australia’s national manager for preparedness and research, development and extension, it can be challenging – if not a little daunting – for growers to know where to begin.

“That’s a major driver for why we established the Grains Farm Biosecurity Program with Grain Producers Australia (GPA) and why the Biosecurity manual for grain producers was produced,” Mr Kearns says.

GPA and Plant Health Australia (PHA), in partnership with the NSW, Queensland, South Australian, Victorian and Western Australian governments, are continuing to deliver the program that has been a cornerstone of the industry since 2007.

“It’s not expected that changes will happen overnight. Instead, it’s about starting the process and continuing with it, using a biosecurity self-assessment checklist and clearly explaining your strategy to staff, contractors, family and visitors to make sure your farm is in the best-possible position in the event of an emergency,” Mr Kearns says.

Many people believe that biosecurity is simply concerned with preventing pests from entering Australia, as depicted on television shows such as Border Security, but growers have the most influence when it comes to keeping out diseases, pests and weeds and this starts at the farm gate.

“Determining potential risks and understanding how to manage them effectively can save time and money for grain growers.”

Introducing weeds

One such risk is bringing in unwanted weeds via seed or grains. This risk can be significantly decreased by either purchasing certified seed or doing business with reputable suppliers.

“A ‘come clean, go clean’ approach is important in reducing the risk of weeds, pests and diseases being accidentally introduced and spread by visitors such as spraying or harvesting contractors and their vehicles.”

A basic wash-down (or blow-down) area can be used to reduce the risk from spraying or harvesting equipment, and designated parking areas can be easily inspected to help ensure no new weeds are introduced and allowed to spread undetected. Pests, diseases and weeds can enter a farm and be spread by vehicles and equipment.

Maintaining farm hygiene

Maintaining equipment hygiene and ensuring all vehicles that visit a property are clean and well-maintained is important. Other measures can be added over time and integrated into the operation, allowing for a gradual and continuous improvement in farm protection.

“Growers have invested too much time, money and effort into their enterprises and their industry to not effectively address biosecurity risks.”

The Grains Farm Biosecurity Program has launched an online hub of industry-specific biosecurity resources and tools. Designed with growers in mind, the easy-to-use website provides fact sheets, videos, how-to guides, online training and strategies to help growers manage on-farm biosecurity risks.

More information: Grains biosecurity website.

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