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Surveillance – an essential component of grains biosecurity

Regular surveillance for new pests and diseases is critical to protect crops and maximise yields and profits.
Photo: Plant Health Australia

Biosecurity surveillance is an essential component of the Australian grains biosecurity system. It prevents the entry, establishment and spread of new grain pests, which is vital in supporting the international competitiveness and ultimate profitability of the grains industry.

Australia has a comprehensive biosecurity system that undertakes risk-reducing activities through a continuum of pre-border, border and post-border activities.

Surveillance is an essential component of border and post-border activities as it maximises the likelihood of early detection of new and emerging pests and provides data on pest distribution and pest absence to support trade.

However, surveillance is a shared responsibility that starts on-farm. Amid the winter grains harvest season, it is timely to remind growers that regular surveillance for new pests and diseases is critical to protect crops and maximise yields and profits.

On-farm surveillance

Monitoring and surveillance on-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 provides the best chance of spotting a new pest as soon as it arrives.

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

The GFBP is an initiative to improve the management of, and preparedness for, biosecurity risks in the grains industry at farm and industry levels. Launched in 2007, the program is managed by Plant Health Australia (PHA) and funded by growers through Grain Producers Australia (GPA), together with the New South Wales, Queensland, South Australian, Victorian and Western Australian governments.

Tips for on-farm surveillance include:

  1. Regular surveillance activities to enable early detection and response to new incursions before they get out of hand.
  2. Know which pests and diseases are commonly found in your area to help identify a new or exotic pest.
  3. Record your data to facilitate evidence of the absence of exotic pests and diseases for market access purposes.
  4. Collaborate with neighbours and the wider industry to keep informed and to provide valuable data to help determine the most-effective course of action.
  5. Get a free copy of the GFBP’s Monitoring Stored Grain on-farm booklet, which provides information on how to sample grains for pests, monitoring temperature and moisture content and lists of exotic and common grains storage pests.
  6. Install free biosecurity gate signs to help control movement on your property and minimise unwanted pests and diseases.
  7. Contact your relevant state Grains Biosecurity Officer to discuss surveillance issues, needs and tactics.

Considering the various pathways in which pests and diseases can be introduced on-farm is equally significant. The most-common entry pathway is through the unwanted, uncontrolled and unclean arrival of people, vehicles, machinery, fodder or livestock into a paddock.

Pests and diseases can arrive as seeds, eggs, spores and other microscopic particles. They are transported by vectors such as soil, wind, water, wildlife and on plant matter attached to machinery, work boots, vehicles, equipment and livestock.

Here are ways you can enhance biosecurity surveillance on-farm:

  1. Know what is normal to expect in your crop – this will help identify any usual pests and diseases. Anything unusual should be submitted for identification.
  2. Surveillance of imported fodder, grain or stockfeed from other regions, or uncontrolled access to production areas on-farm, are especially important to monitor for germinating plants, new insects and other disease symptoms.
  3. Carefully inspect machinery, vehicles, work boots, equipment and livestock entering your farm, for anything unusual.

If you do see anything unusual when you are out and about, it might be new to the region or even new to Australia. Please call the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 and report what you have seen. Every report will be taken seriously, checked out and treated confidentially.

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