Cropping more than 2200 hectares a year, dryland grain grower Rodney Guest is well known within the New South Wales Riverina region of Rankin Springs for the stringent biosecurity practices he has introduced on his property, ‘Thorburn’.
He says integrating a variety of hygiene and monitoring activities within his whole-farm management system has allowed him to protect his livelihood from economically important pests.
Problem weeds have been a major driver behind his biosecurity practices, including spiny burrgrass, St Barnaby’s thistle, feathertop Rhodes grass and silver-leaf nightshade. Rodney has successfully eradicated spiny burrgrass and silver-leaf nightshade on his farm, and continues to employ several practices to ensure freedom from such weeds is maintained.
He says his biosecurity practices have improved his bottom line: “If I am able to prevent problematic pests from entering and establishing on my farm I can improve my gross margin.”
Hygiene is a crucial component of his farm-management system. Vehicle access on-farm is limited and those vehicles that do enter the farm must be clean and free of mud and weed seeds. Purchased second-hand machinery is thoroughly cleaned before entering the farm, and contractors are required to wash down before entry. Rodney also inspects and cleans his own vehicles when they return after having been used off his own farm.
Agronomic practices on ‘Thorburn’ complement biosecurity measures. These include controlling weeds and volunteer plants over fallow periods, along fencelines and around trees, using effective crop rotations and varietal selection to reduce the risk of endemic diseases such as wheat stripe rust. Along with weed concerns, pests of stored grain are another major driver of Rodney’s hygiene practices.
He makes sure any spilt grain around his silos and silo bags is removed, as well as spraying and slashing these areas. Grain handling equipment is routinely cleaned and aeration installed in the silos has helped to reduce stored grain pests, and has reduced reliance on fumigation for control.
Regular monitoring underpins his management systems. Along with his agronomist, Rodney systematically inspects and monitors his crops and other areas of his farm for pests. Using GPS reference points allows for re-inspection of areas where problem weeds have previously been found.
A key concern within the Rankin Springs region is the movement of glyphosate-resistant annual ryegrass. Growers within the tight-knit community are quick to discuss any new pests they have found, and work together to reduce the risk of such pests to their crops. While they might joke about Rodney’s stringent biosecurity practices, his fellow growers have witnessed first-hand the benefits of these activities and respect his requests in relation to his farm biosecurity.
Rachel Taylor, grains biosecurity officer, NSW Department of Primary Industries
0409 945 069
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