Survey shows grain growers lead biosecurity

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A biosecurity sign on a fence

A survey shows 90 per cent of grain growers now implement biosecurity measures.

A survey of Australian growers has revealed that crop and livestock producers have a growing awareness of their role in preventing or controlling diseases, pests and weeds.

More than 1200 plant, grain and livestock growers participated in the survey – commissioned by the Farm Biosecurity program, a joint initiative of Animal Health Australia and Plant Health Australia (PHA) – giving a comprehensive picture of Australian growers’ attitudes and biosecurity practices.

Building on similar research in 2010, the survey gives an idea of growers’ increasing awareness and knowledge about biosecurity.

Brad Siebert, program manager of biosecurity planning and implementation at PHA, says it was heartening that about 90 per cent of grain growers surveyed defined biosecurity as “measures taken to protect farm production from diseases, pests and weeds”. This was the highest response of any producer group.

He says while border protection and quarantine continue to be seen as important in preventing exotic pests and diseases entering Australia, more growers are recognising that they have an active role to play in supporting biosecurity efforts against endemic diseases, pests and weeds in their region by managing biosecurity risks on-farm.

“Good biosecurity is fundamental to successful farming, and it doesn’t need to be onerous or expensive. It can be as simple as keeping records, limiting visitor contact with crops and livestock, or washing your boots.”

The answers to a range of questions indicated that more growers are diversifying their activities and growing or stocking a wider range of plants and animals. Almost one-quarter of growers grew and stored grain on their property for their own use. The incidence was particularly high among those who would traditionally be categorised as sheep and cattle producers.

“This has the effect of minimising the inputs required and the biosecurity risks associated with bringing livestock feed in from elsewhere. But it also means there are people new to grain growing who could benefit from biosecurity advice about growing and storing grains,” Mr Siebert says.

When asked what biosecurity information growers needed, the top requests were for biosecurity alerts and warnings, and identifying pest and disease types and symptoms. The requests for alerts and warnings have grown considerably since 2010.

More than 80 per cent of growers monitored their own crops or livestock. While grain growers reported similar levels of monitoring by themselves, family or staff, more than half also used an agronomist or cropping consultant.

More than half of grain growers kept records of their monitoring, and 80 per cent of those were willing to share their monitoring records.

Mr Siebert says this is good news. “The data that producers are collecting and are willing to share can feed into national surveillance programs that support continued access to grain markets that rely on formal pest-freedom statements.”

Overall, 97 per cent of growers said they would report a new pest or disease found on their property, but many were unsure who to report it to.

Growers who spot anything unusual in a crop can call the Emergency Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.

More information:

Farm Biosecurity
www.farmbiosecurity.com.au

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Region National