Biosecurity: everyone has a role to play
Farm biosecurity is a set of practices designed to protect farms and our industry from the entry, spread and establishment of pests, weeds and diseases. Both exotic and endemic pests and diseases are capable of reducing yields, affecting the environment and changing the way we manage our crops and farms. For growers and crop managers, it's important to protect your asset – your farm – with a farm biosecurity plan, which integrates on-farm biosecurity practices that prevent or reduce the risk of pest, weeds and diseases entering or spreading.
Australia has a world-class biosecurity system, however with increased international trade and people movements, there will always be a risk of new plant pests or diseases entering the country. There is also the additional possibility that pests can also be spread to Australia through natural means such as wind and water currents.
Everyone has a responsibility when it comes to biosecurity. Previous changes in QLD and in NSW biosecurity legislation make it the obligation of everyone – growers, contractors, visitors - to take reasonable and practical steps to prevent or minimise biosecurity much more explicit.
What do you need to know?
Biosecurity is a shared responsibility between everyone in the community, including growers, consultants, contractors, industry members and visitors. Each person needs to play their part to reduce the likelihood of spreading pests, weeds and diseases. You do not need to know about all biosecurity risks, but you should know about biosecurity risks associated with your industry, your business and day-to-day work, and even hobbies, and take reasonable steps to prevent or minimise these risks.
Defending your farm
Growers play a key role in protecting Australia's agricultural industry from pests, weeds and and diseases by implementing on-farm biosecurity measures. Implementing strong biosecurity measures on your farm will help protect your buiness, region and the industry from the introduction and spread of endemic and exotic pests, weeds and diseases.
If a new pest or disease becomes established on your farm, it could affect your business through increased costs (for monitoring, changes in production practice, additional chemical use and labour), reduced productivity (in yield and/or quality) or loss of markets. Early detection and immediate reporting increases the chance of effective and efficient eradication.
Your region. Your farm. Your risks. Your plan.
Developing a farm biosecurity plan can help growers assess the biosecurity risks associated with their farms and businesses and decide on appropriate actions and practices to mitigate and minimise these biosecurity risks. In its essence, a farm biosecurity plan is a risk assessment. Completing a risk assessment is not about completely removing every risk, it is about trying to minimise the risk by taking reasonable steps and actions.
In an ideal world, farms would be able to complete every action in a farm biosecurity checklist. But in reality some actions are not always applicable to a farm while others are not always practical. While the actions in a checklist are great recommendations, no single action contributes to a 'right' farm biosecurity plan. Growers need to make their farm biosecurity plan work for them, taking into consideration their farm and biosecurity risks and the best actions to mitigate these risks.
Farm Biosecurity Plan templates are available for growers to complete - to request a template or assistance in developing a farm biosecurity plan, contact the CottonInfo Technical Lead for Biosecurity (details below).
Key biosecurity areas
If it can move, it can carry pests, weeds and diseases. For this reason it is important to never assume that people know the biosecurity measures and practices you have in place on farm. There are a number of ways of communicating your biosecurity requirements, both before and during a person’s visit to your farm.
Regularly monitoring crops for the presence of pests, weeds or diseases i (eg. insects, mites, nematodes, pathogens (diseases) and weeds) or associated symptoms increases the likelihood of early detection of unwelcome intruders. Promptly reporting any sightings greatly increases the chances that new pests and diseases can be eradicated before they establish.
Growers, consultants and farm personnel are expected to report any sightings of exotic pests or anything unusual to a State Department Officer or by calling the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881 from anywhere in Australia. Sightings of anything unusual can include unexpected crop failures, abnormally high mortality rates in plants or sudden and unexplained falls in production.
Ratoon and volunteer cotton:
Ratoon (regrowth/stub cotton) and volunteer (plants that have germinated and established unintentionally) cotton plants are a biosecurity risk. They harbour pests, carrying them from season to season and providing an inoculum source for early re-infection of the following year’s crop. They are also a potential point of establishment for new pest and disease outbreaks.
Vehicles, machinery and equipment:
Vehicles and equipment such as pickers and tractors can carry soil and plant material, particularly weed seeds, to other areas or other farms. Come Clean Go Clean is one of the simplest, yet most effective ways of minimising the spread of pest, weeds and diseases by ensuring vehicles and machinery are arriving onto and leaving farms mud and trash-free.
So, what should you do on your farm?
- Develop a farm biosecurity plan to assess the biosecurity risks associated with your farm and business, and the best actions to mitigate these risks.
- Ensure all farm personnel, consultants, contractors and visitors are made aware of farm biosecurity requirements – clear communication is critical for ensuring your biosecurity plan operates effectively
- Erect biosecurity signs. These signs are a useful tool to remind farm personnel and visitors about biosecurity practices and expectations.
- Monitor crops and fields regularly for signs of pests and disease, particularly any new or unusual insects, weed species or plant symptoms.
- Ensure all farm personnel are aware of the action to be taken in the event if identifying unusual pests or plant symptoms. If you spot anything unusual, call the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline 1800 084 881.
- Remove all cotton volunteers and ratoon plants from all cropping and no-cropping areas to reduce carryover of pests and diseases.Control volunteer and ratoon cotton to minimise the risk of harbouring pests and disease overwinter.
- Consider the risk from and inspect farm inputs e.g. seed, soil amendments, stock feed, and organic fertiliser.
- Practice Come Clean Go Clean. CottonInfo, together with NSW DPI, QDAF and the Grains Farm Biosecurity Program have developed a best practice 4-step wash down protocol for machinery, vehicles and equipment. This protocol involves the use of an agricultural detergent and decontaminant.
For more information on biosecurity visit the myBMP Biosecurity module.
Where should you go for more information?
Sharna Holman - Technical Lead, Biosecurity
Mobile: 0477 394 116
- Farm Biosecurity Manual for the Cotton Industry (Farm Biosecurity)
- Cotton Pest Management Guide
- Exotic pest and disease ID guides:
- Fact sheets:
- CottonInfo fact sheet: Come Clean Go Clean
- CottonInfo fact sheet: Managing ratoons and volunteers
- CottonInfo fact sheet: Researchers and Extension Officers: What’s your biosecurity responsibility?
- CottonInfo fact sheet: Starting the on-farm biosecurity conversation
- CottonInfo fact sheet: Biosecurity requirements for moving used cotton machinery and equipment
- Cotton Symptoms Guide
- Pests and Beneficials in Australian Cotton Landscapes
- Farm Biosecurity Action Planner (Farm Biosecurity): action planner tool to assess and address biosecurity risks on farm.
- myBMP cotton biosecurity checklist