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Making on-farm biosecurity work for you

Come clean, go clean to protect on-farm biosecurity.
Photo: Plant Health Australia

As we approach the end of winter harvest season, it is the ideal time for growers to review or draft farm biosecurity plans to protect their business from the impact of new and harmful pests and diseases. There is a common misconception that implementing on-farm biosecurity is complicated and expensive; it does not have to be – it should just suit your purposes.

In particular, early detection of exotic pests or diseases increases the probability of successful containment, eradication or management before they have time to establish and spread.

Biosecurity plans should outline all the biosecurity activities a grower will undertake to reduce the risks of pest and disease entry or spread. The plan should be tailored to the farm and include staff training, surveillance and record-keeping practices.

The Grains Farm Biosecurity Program (GFBP) has some helpful tips to assist with on-farm biosecurity plans.

Key considerations include:

  1. People and machinery movement through winter harvest or summer sowing – with contractors moving on-and-off properties, it is important to ensure they come clean and go clean to prevent the spread of weeds, pests and diseases. Make sure their vehicles, machinery, clothing and boots are clean before entering your property.
  2. Grain storage after harvest – monitor your stored grain to check it remains free of insects and diseases. If you are fumigating grain, make sure that silos are gas-tight to deliver the correct dose of fumigant and reduce the risk of resistance development in insect populations.
  3. Manage green bridges and volunteer crops – remove any crop plants growing out-of-season or weeds that could act as hosts for pests and diseases, which provide a means for them to survive and move between seasonal crops.

Key biosecurity practices that are easy to implement:

  1. Display a farm biosecurity gate sign on main entrances with a contact number to raise visitors’ awareness of biosecurity on-farm, and so they can let you know when they arrive.
  2. Request visitors to only come with clean vehicles and clothing, and to stay on formed roads while on your property.
  3. Have a map of your property on hand, marked to show visitors where formed roads are and any zoning you may have in place on your property.
  4. Have a visitor register or logbook, either digital or hard copy, where higher-risk visitors sign in and out – for example, contractors and agronomists.
  5. Keep a farm biosecurity kit in your car or readily accessible to decontaminate boots and equipment easily and quickly when required.
  6. Know how to spot anything unusual. Report any new pests, diseases, or anything unusual to the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.

Top 5 tips to help with biosecurity planning

  1. Keep it simple

    Don’t overcomplicate things and get overwhelmed. Biosecurity essentials is a good place to start. Consider farm inputs, outputs, people, vehicles and equipment and production practices.

  2. Make it work for you 

    You don’t necessarily need a formal plan that covers every biosecurity aspect. Your plan should include management practices you have in place for people to follow. Ensure they are effective measures for the risks you are trying to manage and that they can be followed and written down for visitor reference.

  3. Communicate your plan

    Let visitors and contractors know you have biosecurity measures in place by having signs on main entrances to properties and advising visitors before they arrive on-site. It will also help to lock unmanaged gates to prevent unwanted access.

  4. Make sure you follow your plan

    While not all practices in your plan will apply to you as the owner (for example signing in), there is no point in having a biosecurity plan or best practices in place if do not follow them. Starting with simple measures that are easy to follow is the best way to implement on-farm biosecurity.

  5. Regularly review and update your plan 

Review and update your plan at least once a year. Depending on seasonal conditions or any changes on your property, you may want to review or update it more regularly.

Remember, just because you cannot see a risk, does not mean it does not exist. It is always better to be prepared before a pest or disease enters the country or your property than trying to put measures in after it happens.

More information:

Useful resources: Plant Health Australia’s free Growers - Pest reporting and responsescourse, Biosecurity Online Training (BOLT) platform

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