2012 Biosecurity Farmer of the Year Award finalists
Harry, Greg and Adam Schwedes of Glenlee, Victoria.
Vigilance is the critical ingredient in successful biosecurity, says Victorian grain grower Harry Schwedes from Glenlee, in the Wimmera region.
Harry, 85, farms with his son Greg, 55, and grandson Adam, 18; together they were among the finalists in the 2012 Biosecurity Farmer of the Year Award.
“Be on the look out,” Harry says. “Be alert for new and emerging problems and jump on them straight away.” It is also important to stay in touch with the latest information about any new risks and to improve farming practices, he says.
The Schwedes farm a 2500-hectare property north-west of Dimboola, growing wheat, barley, canola, chickpeas, faba beans, lentils, lupins, field peas and vetch in rotation.
Crop rotations are an important part of their weed and disease-control program, helping to maintain soil-fertility improvements as well as maximising income. Weeds of particular concern include three cornered jack, Bathurst burr and paddy melons, all of which require ongoing management.
Their policy is to act quickly to eradicate any new pests, recognising that once a pest is established it is both difficult and costly to live with. Harry says there is too much at stake in terms of the business they have built to jeopardise it by allowing new pests and weeds to take hold.
It is also part of being a good neighbour, he says. “Who wants to be accused of spreading weeds, snails, diseases to neighbouring properties and causing them financial and emotional strain? We want to have a clear conscience that we are not taking any infected material off the property, and also peace of mind knowing that nothing is coming onto the property.”
They recently completed the Grain Farm Biosecurity Manual self-assessment and found that many farm-hygiene measures they have been implementing as a matter of course are now ‘best practice’.
Harry says good biosecurity practice does not have to cost anything. It is mainly a state of mind or a philosophy that drives behaviour such as vehicle hygiene, ongoing inspection of paddocks and awareness of risk.
The Schwedes did invest in new gas-tight silos to ensure the effective fumigation of grain in long-term storage. They see this as an investment in preserving the effectiveness of the chemicals available for fumigation and in ensuring their grain is saleable.
The whole family is involved in implementing farm biosecurity, along with staff, contractors and Victorian Department of Primary Industries staff who visit the property to manage National Variety Trials on-site.
Harry says the enterprise relies on everybody sticking to the biosecurity rules. “It does take a little extra time out of the day to ensure everyone sticks to the hygiene rules but we can’t afford not to.”
The Schwedes biosecurity practices include:
- maintaining excellent farm hygiene;
- using only the right chemical for the job;
- regularly and thoroughly monitoring paddocks;
- quickly eradicating any new incursions;
- insisting on regular cleaning of vehicles and machinery using a high-pressure hose and air blower;
- restricting vehicles to tracks and laneways;
- taking part in district rabbit and weed-control programs;
- inspecting, cleaning and treating seed prior to sowing;
- treating stored grain pests in airtight, sealed silos;
- pressure-testing silos regularly;
- aerating units to assist insect control and grain quality in storage;
- keeping in touch with latest information through networks, websites, contractors and written publications;
- regularly assessing the risk to the property and improving practices where able;
- installing signs on gates warning against unauthorised entry into paddocks – anyone wanting access to the paddocks must not walk or drive on without consent and adherence to hygiene procedures; and
- trusting their agricultural consultant to clean his vehicle and boots.
Jim Moran, Victorian grains biosecurity officer,
03 5430 4479, 0418 377 930,
Growers who see anything unusual are urged to call the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.
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