Caz Abbey and Anne Wilkins fix a farm biosecurity sign to the fence of the group’s main field site.
PHOTO: Jeff Russell
Based 200 kilometres north of Perth, the West Midlands Group is one of Western Australia’s leading grower groups, with a network of research sites around a central home base that hosts 40 or more research projects a year.
It is also a leader in farm biosecurity practices, which it sees as part of its ‘duty of care’ to the growers who offer their land to host trials.
WA grains biosecurity officer Jeff Russell has worked with the West Midlands Group to improve biosecurity in the region, particularly managing the biosecurity risks associated with the research projects.
“It is important that biosecurity measures are observed by everyone, so the group has set up about a dozen farm biosecurity signs for their research sites,” Mr Russell says. “This helps to manage movement of people and vehicles – which is a key part of reducing the risk of spreading weeds and pests.”
Anne Wilkins, executive officer of the West Midlands Group, says the signs are important for protecting the local growers.
“They’ve volunteered their land for this research so it is part of the duty of care to minimise all potential risks to them,” she says.
“The biosigns alert both the research providers and the public that there are protocols the group has put in place and they remind everyone to take care.”
The group has also developed protocols for business, research and public visitors.
Visitors to research sites are instructed to first contact the group’s R&D coordinator to avoid multiple visits and to allow a visitor register to be maintained for tracking purposes, should any problem develop.
The group also fosters a ‘Come clean, go clean’ culture that Ms Wilkins says helps set an industry standard for good biosecurity.
The West Midlands Group represents more than 125 farm businesses and 270 growers across 185 properties.
Mr Russell is keen to see other grower groups in WA develop similar practical management strategies to help minimise pest and disease risks.
Help to do this is available through the Grains Farm Biosecurity Program, which is funded by Grain Producers Australia and managed by Plant Health Australia.
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