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Farm Biosecurity – Key considerations

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There has been a lot talk about farm biosecurity since the signing of Government Industry Agreement (GIA) – but what actually is farm biosecurity and what are growers expected to do?

Farm biosecurity includes a range of management practices and activities that are carried out on your property to prevent the entry and spread of pests.  Ultimately, farm biosecurity is about protecting your livelihood, that of your neighbours and your industry.  Farm biosecurity is your responsibility, and that of every person working on or visiting your property.

When signing up to GIA, there was a commitment to raising awareness of biosecurity and how it can be monitored and managed amongst the industry stakeholders, mainly growers.  Farm biosecurity is a practical way for all growers to demonstrate awareness of and commitment to managing biosecurity.

Although important, farm biosecurity does not need to be onerous.  There are more than likely a number of activities you already undertake as part of your daily operations that contribute to your overall farm biosecurity.  The following are ideas to consider in the context of farm biosecurity.  It may be that you already have it covered – if so, give yourself a pat on the back.  If not, think about how you can implement some of the following concepts into your day to day growing operations.

 

Be aware of biosecurity threats

Virtually every grower in New Zealand can name fruit fly as a biosecurity threat but do you know the pests or diseases of greatest threat to the potato industry?  PNZ Inc. has contracted Market Access Solutionz to develop fact sheets for some of the pests that are the most likely to enter New Zealand and/or would have the most significant economic impact on potato growers.  These fact sheets can be found at http://potatoesnz.co.nz.  Ensure relevant staff are familiar with pests you usually associate with your crop and property and those that they should be on the look-out for.  Display posters of pests normally associated with your crop and posters of exotic pests to look for.

 

Use quality tubers and other inputs

Any plant material moved onto your property can be a potential source of pests and weeds.  Monitor any plant material, including seed potato tubers, that comes onto your property.  Ensure you are sourcing high quality tubers from a trusted source and inspect prior to planting for any signs of pests.  Keeping records of plantings (and other inputs) enables you to trace back (and forward) if necessary.  Fertilisers, particularly organic, can be a source of contamination e.g. weed seed.

 

Keep it clean

Workers, visitors, vehicles and particularly equipment can spread pests onto and throughout your property.  Making sure workers on your property are aware of hygiene practices for staff, equipment and vehicles raises the awareness of biosecurity.  This can easily be included as part of staff inductions.

  • Signage can be put up to ensure visitors are aware of any specific hygiene or biosecurity requirements you may have. Use signage to direct visitor’s vehicles where to park.
  • When possible use your own vehicles to transport visitors around your property.
  • Stay on established tracks. Encourage visitors to access your property via 1 or 2 routes only. Limit access to production sites to restricted personnel.
  • Don’t assume people know where to go or what to do when they arrive at your property. Make sure that on arrival, visitors (including contractors) are aware of where they can (or can’t go) and any other requirements such as hygiene, clothing requirements etc. Provide hand washing facilities, foot baths, disposal overboots or overalls (if necessary) for visitors.
  • Potato planting and harvesting equipment can collect soil and plant debris which can carry plant pests. Cleaning equipment will prevent any pests spreading around your property or to other regions.  Clean and/or disinfect equipment between crops and properties.  Disinfect borrowed equipment before and after use.
  • If you already have or are considering developing cleaning areas consideration should be given to:

Location: Ideally an open area close to property entrances and located as far as possible from growing areas.

Drainage: Are you able do have a sump or a waste water collection area for drainage of water, soil and plant debris.

Size: Is there enough room for large machines and vehicles to enter and move around.

Cleaning equipment: Dedicated high pressure hoses or compressed air cleaners will make the cleaning process more effective.

Surface: Concrete or bitumen is ideal. A grassed surface is not recommended due to the potential for some pests to be spread by soil and on plant matter.

Signage: Clean down areas should be signposted and directions provided from the property entrance.  This will ensure visitors are aware of the clean down facility and can report to it on arrival.

 

Monitor your crops

Know what’s normal. Knowing how your crop usually appears, what weeds may be present and what the signs and symptoms of your usual pests and diseases look like will enable you to notice anything unusual.

Monitor your crops regularly, the frequency will be dependent of growth stage, weather conditions, and presence of pests or disease.  Increase the level of monitoring if you have any concerns. This can be as simple as a walk through the crop or part of a more formal crop monitoring programme.  Take photos and keep records of anything unusual.  Early detection of a new pest can greatly increase the chances of eradication.

Follow instructions when applying agrichemicals, the misuse of agrichemicals can lead to resistance development which can lead to ongoing biosecurity problems.  If you suspect pesticide resistance, get additional advice from an agronomist or chemical supplier.

Work with sick or suspect areas last as this will minimise the risk of spreading pests if present. Destroy unhealthy plant material by burying or burning to ensure infected plant material does not spread pests.

 

Abide by the law

Support and be aware of laws and regulations established to protect the potato industry and other horticultural industries in your region.

 

Report anything unusual

If you see any unusual pests or plant symptoms report it immediately to the MPI Exotic Pest and Disease Hotline 0800 80 99 66.