Biosecurity matters

Biosecurity matters

Crookwell is known for its disease-free certified seed potatoes and that’s the way grower, Kim Weir, wants it to stay.

He is vigilant about maintaining strict biosecurity practices on his farm and ensures anyone who comes onto his property adheres to these measures.

AUSVEG spoke to Kim in 2015 and at the time, he – together with son James – had a 400 ha mixed grazing farm. As well as a Dorset sheep stud, they produced prime lambs, beef and grow up to 20 ha of certified seed Sebago and Almera potatoes annually.

Crookwell has few of the major pests, diseases and viruses found elsewhere in certified seed potato crops. These include powdery scab, potato cyst nematode, bacterial wilt, potato virus Y and potato leaf roll virus.

In 2015, the four certified seed potato growers in Crookwell produced about 2,500 tonne of seed. According to Kim’s estimates, this sowed close to 2,000 ha (about 5,000 acres) of potatoes. These crops then produce about 75,000 tonnes of produce for Australian markets. Any disease or virus threat in Crookwell will have a devastating flow-on effect.

 Kim Weir and son James. Image: by Kim Shirley

Kim Weir and son James. Image: by Kim Shirley

The Weirs are particularly vigilant about what happens on-farm. During the growing period, the crop is treated as an isolation area. Only those with specific tasks are allowed to enter and they follow strict protocols.

For example, the potato inspector comes early morning, when he has clean clothes. Before entering the paddock, he dips his boots in a disinfectant footbath and does the same as he leaves.

“Our motto, as in most seed certified seed growing areas, is come clean and leave clean,” Kim said.

Each year during the potato growing cycle, leaf samples from throughout the crop are sent off for virus testing. Biosecurity aware signs are in place and Kim is trying to educate others of the importance of keeping Crookwell disease-free.

“We haven’t got a problem at the moment and we will make every effort to keep the area clean,” Kim said in 2015. But he believed people didn’t understand biosecurity.

“They think we are just being difficult. They don’t understand the position we are in and the risks we are up against if we get pests and diseases in our certified seed potato crops,” he said.

Acknowledgment: from the 2015 Potato Grower Success Stories