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Keep your harvest movements clean this season

Growers are reminded to have effective ‘come clean, go clean’ protocols on-farm to reduce the spread of pests and weeds this harvest season.

The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Manager Pests Leigh Nelson said the movement of vehicles and machinery between properties with both growers and contractors during harvest makes the need for effective biosecurity practices critical.

NSW Grain Biosecurity Office Rachel Taylor- Hukins say vehicles and machinery should be cleaned from the top down. PHOTO courtesy of PlantHealth Australia.

“Growers spend significant time on weed control year round, the last thing you want is for a contractor’s vehicle to come on-farm and spread weed and weed seeds from paddock-to-paddock,” she said.

“Weeds are costly both in time and money to control, they limit the carrying capacity of pasture and rob moisture and fertiliser from crops.

“While for many the use contracting workers, vehicles and machinery is unavoidable at harvest time, ensuring that protocols are clearly laid out for visitors, and strictly adhered to is the best way to maintain biosecurity on farm.”

NSW Grains Biosecurity Officer at the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries Rachel Taylor-Hukins said having a clean-down facility or area to allow growers, visitors and contractors to clean and disinfect themselves, all vehicles and machinery entering and leaving is key.

“A dedicated wash down facility simplifies this process but those without one can still provide an area, preferably on gravel and away from paddocks to clean down,” Ms Taylor-Hukins said.

“Vehicles and machinery should be cleaned from the top down, focusing on protected areas that may be harbouring soil and plant matter such as internal spaces, wheel arches and undercarriage areas. Since weed seeds and pathogens like rusts can enter on people’s footwear and clothing, it helps to have a clean clothes and boots policy for employees and visitors as well.

“Do keep an eye on the wash down area for any new weeds, and maintain this space so it is ready for use at any time. Signage clearly explaining the process is effective too.”

Ms Taylor-Hukins said weeds are only one side of the equation, with storage pests also a risk at harvest time.

“The National Grains Farm Biosecurity Program emphasises that machinery cleanliness is also important to help prevent pest infestations in stored grain as well,” she said.

“Insects can be harboured where grain residues are left in grain handling equipment and headers, especially if they haven’t been cleaned since last harvest, so not only should contractor machinery be cleaned, but your own equipment too.

“Growers can also undertake best practice hygiene in and around all storages to ensure pest protection.”

Ms Nelson said harvest is a busy time for everyone, and while the focus can be in the paddock, care must be taken post-harvest too.

“All of us are looking forward to a break at the end of harvest, especially if we are finished before Christmas,  but it is really important to make time post-harvest to give everything a good clean down,” she said.

“Good farm hygiene during and post-harvest puts you on the front foot and it is inexpensive with equipment like an air compressor and fittings, air guns, vacuum cleaner, firefighting pump and hose and brooms.

“Biosecurity is a year round job, and only more so during harvest and post-harvest.”