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Strong biosecurity underpins grain industry profitability

Plant biosecurity is achieved through a coordinated network of government and industry organisations that work together to protect Australia at and beyond the border.
Photo: Jim Moran, DJPR

Callum FletcherCallum Fletcher, GRDC manager biosecurity. Photo: GRDC

GRDC deeply values the role that the national plant biosecurity systems play in ensuring the continued productivity, profitability and marketability of Australian grains.

In Australia, plant biosecurity is achieved through a coordinated network of government and industry organisations that work together to protect Australia at and beyond the border.

This system begins with the surveillance of emerging threats overseas and spans all the way through to hygiene practices on individual farms. It includes contingency planning and the emergency responses needed to deal with an incursion.

In September, 2022, the GroundCover Supplement focused on this important topic and is entitled Biosecurity – A Shared Responsibility.

This Supplement is intended primarily as a snapshot of Australia’s crucial plant biosecurity system. However, it also provides an opportunity to meet the nation’s key biosecurity players, both at the national and local level. Of special note are the state grains biosecurity officers (GBOs), whose work is the most directly relevant to on-farm biosecurity activities.

Importantly, this issue also stands as an invitation to all to renew our collective vigilance and awareness when it comes to reporting unusual pests, weeds and diseases.

As a major investor in research and development, GRDC plays a direct role in supporting the nation’s plant biosecurity system.

We invest in the technological capabilities that boost incursion preparedness – especially regarding surveillance and the diagnostics needed during an emergency response.

Furthermore, research is conducted to help improve the control options available in the event of an incursion. This includes the deployment of chemical treatments – fungicides, pesticides or herbicides – or the pre-emptive development of genetic resistance.

These investments are currently at work as industry faces off against three levels of threats:

  • immediate threats from the likes of khapra beetle and fall armyworm that have arrived in some regions or are under eradication;
  • looming threats, such as wheat blast as it encroaches ever closer to Australia; and
  • the management of established threats, such as stripe and leaf rust.

At every level of threat, GRDC considers it vitally important that lessons are learned and shortfalls anticipated within a cycle of continuously improving biosecurity effectiveness. Well-targeted investment in research is essential to this process. So is communication and knowledge-sharing, which is something I strongly intend to encourage. As such, I look forward to the opportunities that GRDC extension activities offer to meet and talk with industry.

As a relative newcomer to GRDC, however, you might not yet have met me. I have taken over the role, which is exclusively focused on biosecurity matters, previously filled by Dr Jeevan Khurana. I bring to this position 20 years of experience in researching important pests and diseases of grains and horticultural crops, and extending this to industry. Most recently, that included working with government and research providers to improve biosecurity preparedness and responses for the vegetable industry.

I’m excited to start my tenure at GRDC with this GroundCover Supplement and I look forward to meeting growers in person to continue conversations about this important subject.

More information: Callum Fletcher,

Read the Biosecurity - A share responsibility Supplement for September - October.

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