Silver lining to broomrape quarantine

Photo of a man in front of an 'oversize' machine

South Australian grower Geoff Bond says biosecurity
measures implemented to control branched broomrape
weed have provided wider benefits on his family’s
property at Mannum.

 PHOTO: Judi Bellati

South Australian grower Geoff Bond, from Mannum, says biosecurity measures introduced since 1999 as part of the state’s quarantine zone for the noxious weed branched broomrape have provided a range of on-farm benefits.

Geoff and his two brothers, Kevin and Rodney, and sister-in-law Tracy grow wheat, barley, canola, peas and vetch on their 3500-hectare property about 33 kilometres north of Murray Bridge, SA. They run a no-till, block farming system, with no internal fences, which involves farming larger, open paddocks and reduces the need for weed management along fencelines.

Geoff says that while they had already started farm hygiene practices before the quarantine restrictions were put in place in 1999, the branched broomrape incursion forced them, and others in the area, to improve their farm biosecurity. Weed management, better farm hygiene and restricting traffic to defined areas became priorities.

“Initially, it was a real challenge complying with the new protocols for broomrape management,” Geoff says, “but now it’s common practice. The support and education the broomrape program provided built up our agronomic skills and knowledge around best management practice and farm hygiene.”

Branched broomrape is a parasitic weed that grows on the roots of broadleaf annual host plants. While the Australian strain of the weed has proved to be less of a threat than first thought, the plant cannot be eradicated.

Consequently, in July 2012, a two-year program started the transition to a management program that aims to contain branched broomrape, but removes some of the quarantine restrictions previously in place. The transition program is expected to allow industries and businesses to review and update their biosecurity risk management.

Despite the relaxed regulations, the Bond family is continuing to use best practice biosecurity measures on their property, which have provided greater benefits apart from improved management of branched broomrape. The Bonds employ the following measures:

  • source clean and certified seed;
  • restrict traffic flow on the property – the Bonds have one central private road through the property used for machinery and equipment. This access road keeps vehicles off cropping areas to minimise the risk of weeds and diseases spreading and reduce soil compaction in paddocks. It also reduces the risk of shifting weeds to other properties via public roads;
  • designate clean-down areas, which are set up in gravel areas around the workshop and sheds for easy access and monitoring;
  • map weed-infected areas – visitors to the farm, such as surveyors, grain carriers and researchers, are shown a farm road map so that they are aware of high-risk areas. Geoff says this measure is highly effective, but they still have problems with unannounced contractors.
  • set up designated loading and unloading areas in low-risk areas. Geoff says this helps deal with soil compaction and logistics issues, but it also mitigates contamination risks and allows monitoring of the surrounding area for weeds;  
  • use broadleaf weed control – early fenceline spraying limits the risk of weeds spreading on and off-farm. Operational logistics are also designed to minimise this risk, with a vigorous weed management program in place; and
  • use logistical and operational strategies during harvest – the auger off-loads grain straight onto trucks that stay on the central road, saving time on equipment wash downs. Restricting trucks to the central road also reduces wash downs and minimises risks to cropping areas.  

Geoff says the farm biosecurity measures they have been implementing for more than a decade have been a worthwhile investment.

“We are better farmers for it  – and that applies not just to us, but the whole farming community,” he says. “It has helped us remain viable in a tough environment. We’ll continue with best practice for good farm hygiene, profitability and sustainability.”

More information:

Plant Health Australia,
www.planthealthaustralia.com.au

 

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GRDC Project Code NBP00013

Region West, North, South