Cropping

Vigilance prevents crop damage

By Jamie Salter

As this year’s winter crop reaches a critical growth stage, now is the time for farmers to undertake regular surveillance to protect their growing crops from weeds, pests and diseases.

Surveillance during the life of a crop provides the best possible chance of identifying problems early, just after symptoms appear. It also significantly increases the potential to eradicate the pest or disease and minimise crop damage and loss of income.

New weeds, an exotic pest or disease to Australia, or the arrival of an endemic to a farm can impact crop productivity unless early interventions are made.

Vigilant surveillance for germinating plants, new insects and disease symptoms is required for farmers who have imported fodder, grain or stock feed from other regions onto their property — specifically in the spots where it was stored and fed out to livestock, as well as in nearby sown paddocks.

Weeds, pests and diseases can arrive as seeds, eggs, spores and other microscopic particles.

They are transported in and on soil, plant matter, machinery, work boots, vehicles, trucks, equipment and livestock.

Once established, weeds, pests and diseases can increase the cost of production through chemical applications and decreased yields, as a consequence of plant damage and delayed crop maturity.

The impacts can be the quality, price and marketability of the finished product.

A successful surveillance program must be supported by thorough knowledge of the common pests of the crops that are being grown.

Knowing what to expect in the crop will help to identify any unusual weeds, pests and diseases.

— Agriculture Victoria grains industry biosecurity officer Jim Moran