Farmers are being urged to consider biosecurity closely in the wake of recent natural disasters. No corner of Australia has been left unscathed by the extreme climatic events of the past few months, and many of Australia’s $41.8 billion(1) agricultural industries have suffered the effects, with some severely impacted.
Effects have predominately been felt across our plant‐based agricultural industries, with livestock losses reported to date being relatively small in comparison. While it is still too early to source exact figures, national losses in grain production are estimated at around $250 million, for fruit and vegetable production around $225 million and approximately seven per cent of total Australian cotton plantings (valued at around $150 million) have been destroyed.(2)
As the extensive clean up continues it is imperative farmers take biosecurity into account ‐ particularly when replanting and preparing for their next crop.
“It’s really important farmers keep thinking about biosecurity throughout the recovery process,” according to Rod Turner, General Manager, Programs with Plant Health Australia.
“Biosecurity refers to the steps we take to prevent the establishment and spread of unwanted pests and diseases and focuses on practices like inspecting crops and cleaning equipment. But with so much else going on around farms that have been impacted by recent wind, fire and flood water damage, there is a risk that biosecurity might take a back seat,” says Mr Turner.
Pests are an ever present threat to Australia’s plant industries, a large number of which could have devastating consequences if they were to ever become established. Natural disasters only increase this threat. Taking the case of flooding for instance, extra risks may arise from increased humidity and dead and decaying plant matter, which create conditions conducive to endemic pests.
To make matters worse, previously localised infestations may now rapidly take on regional significance as plant material and soils have been deposited over a wide area. “Inundated paddocks are a major concern as waters may have carried debris and waste from upstream and with it foreign weed seeds, fungal diseases and pests. Mindful of these heightened risks PHA is calling for producers to be extra vigilant,” says Mr Turner.
If a new, exotic pest becomes established on‐farm, producers may be affected through increased farming costs, reduced productivity and loss of markets.
Top biosecurity tips to see farmers through the recovery process include:
1. Take notes about where water has run and/or lain across your property and any trash it has left behind. This is so you can keep an eye on these areas in the future.
2. Keep an eye out for weeds germinating in any areas affected by water and floating debris and deal with them quickly.
3. Make sure any vehicle or equipment coming onto your property is cleaned down.
4. Keep records of contractors that come onto your property to repair any damage or undertake recovery work.
5. When replanting, ensure planting and propagation material is clean and certified to reduce the risk of introducing an exotic pest.
6. Let family members, employees and visitors know their footwear and clothing should be free of soil and plant material before entering or leaving the property.
7. Recognise the prolonged wet conditions can cause stress in plants which may predispose them to disease.
8. If you see anything unusual, call the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.
About Plant Health Australia
Plant Health Australia is the national coordinator of the government‐industry partnership for plant biosecurity in Australia. As a not‐for‐profit company, we service the needs of Members and independently advocate on behalf of the national plant biosecurity system.
Plant Health Australia develops Farm Biosecurity Manuals to assist farmers in protecting their properties and industries from new and invasive pests, weeds and diseases. The practices outlined in these manuals can be incorporated into day‐to‐day operations to help growers secure their farms and secure their futures against the threat of pests and diseases.
To download a free Farm Biosecurity Manual relevant to your industry or to find out more about the practices you can implement on your farm, visit: www.planthealthaustralia.com.au/go/biosecurity.
1 Australian Bureau of Statistics ‐ 7503.0 ‐ Value of Agricultural Commodities Produced, Australia, 2008‐09
2 Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences special report on the impact of recent flood events on commodities, 21st January 2011. Ω