Over the last decade, governments and plant industries in Australia have been responding to the detection of several significant plant pests and diseases. These incursions have had impacts on communities, production, domestic trade and the environment and include Myrtle rust, Red imported fire ant, Tomato potato psyllid, Russian wheat aphid, Banana freckle, Panama disease TR4, Chestnut blight, Giant pine scale, Khapra beetle, Varroa mite and Asian honey bee. In 2016 alone, Australia recorded 42 new detections of pests and diseases and, while not all were significant, this figure demonstrates the continual pressure of new threats.
Biosecurity incursions can be one of the greatest business risks for agricultural, horticultural or forestry production, resulting in increased costs in management, reduced production, an impact on domestic or international market access or increased complexity of management systems. While governments have a major role in identifying and managing the risks posed by new plant pest introductions, plant industry representative bodies, growers, farming group advocates and industry personnel are a significant part of the partnership approach within Australia’s biosecurity system. Plant industries know their businesses, and the business of crop production, better than anyone and are best placed to know inputs, outputs and crop management issues.
Improvements to farm biosecurity preparedness requires support to raise awareness, undertake risk assessment and develop and implement effective farm biosecurity plans. Several programs are now in place that provide this support, including the Farm Biosecurity program (an initiative for plant and animal industries), the Grains Farm Biosecurity Program, The Bee Biosecurity Program and the Vegetable Biosecurity Program.
These programs are promoting the uptake of good biosecurity principles across plant production supply chains, however implementation of biosecurity is still slow in many plant industries. The ‘normalisation’ of biosecurity to become part of day to day business practices generally only occurs after a major incursion – sometimes too late to prevent impact major impacts. The need for incentives for good practice and disincentives for bad practice is still an issue that plant industries and government agencies need to address as we move towards a partnership approach to managing and implementing biosecurity practices.