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Farm Bio Project boosts biosecurity prep for veg and spud industries

Farm Bio Project

The AUSVEG Farm Biosecurity Project, a collaboration between AUSVEG and Plant Health Australia (PHA), continues to improve preparedness and response capability to manage biosecurity risks for the vegetable and potato industries.

The second phase of the two-year project funded through the National Vegetable and Potato Levies, kicked off in July 2021, after the successful completion of the first phase. The project is scheduled to conclude in June 2023.

The key differentiator in the second phase of the project is the increased focus on the role and importance of urban biosecurity, with emphasis on research, development, and extension (RD&E) programs and farm biosecurity.

Farm biosecurity is integral in protecting production areas from harmful plant pests, diseases, and weeds with on-farm biosecurity practices playing a pivotal role in maintaining Australia’s reputation of producing high quality products.

“Farm biosecurity is often perceived as too complex to implement or unnecessary by plant industries. Since future exotic pest incursions are inevitable, it is crucial to strengthen the resilience of biosecurity practises” said Dr Mila Bristow, Plant Health Australia General Manager, Partnerships and Innovation.

In the first six months, the program has raised awareness of priority pest threats amongst growers and industry, increased the use of on-farm biosecurity practices, provided practical information for the improvement of on-farm biosecurity, and integrated on-farm biosecurity measures.

“A key success factor of the project is to create a better understanding of the shared responsibility to improve industry biosecurity resilience through increased levels of on-farm preparedness measures that can easily be implemented by growers to gain better protection for their crops and livelihoods,” said Dr Bristow.

The project also aims to increase biosecurity risk preparedness and response mechanisms by working with industry, state and territory governments and the Australian government to strengthen biosecurity awareness and reporting and improve communication of pest issues and threats.

Despite COVID-19 restrictions, AUSVEG biosecurity officers based in Melbourne and Cairns, achieved all project deliverables over the past six months. Highlights include the delivery of six face-to-face workshops, facilitation of five online workshops (webinars), visiting 48 growers, and producing 43 communications in the form of articles, e-bulletins, weekly updates, fact sheets and videos. The biosecurity officers are funded by industry levies highlighting the value industries place on biosecurity.

The biosecurity system relies on strong partnerships and collaboration between stakeholders. Strengthening relationships between industry stakeholders, AUSVEG, State and Federal government remain a key to the ongoing success of the project.

Australia has seen an increased investment in biosecurity with over $400 million in new funding to support reforms to ensure the biosecurity system is able to respond to the growing global threat of exotic pests and diseases.

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Caption: AUSVEG Biosecurity coordinator, Callum Fletcher, presenting to a room full of horticultural growers in Gympie, QLD in March 2021

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