Biosecurity bugbear for farmers

Watching out for fall armyworms

Opinion
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The recent detection of fall armyworm in northern NSW confirms the need to strengthen investment in biosecurity.

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The recent detection of fall armyworm in northern NSW confirms the need to strengthen investment in biosecurity. The plant pest, which can be spread in storm fronts as well as in cut flowers, fruit and vegetable consignments, was detected in Queensland earlier in the year.

NSW Farmers has advocated firmly for a more future-focused approach to biosecurity, which would help fortify our grains, cotton and vegetable industries against the destructive fall armyworm.

Yet, the Federal Government made the decision in early 2020 to discontinue plans for a Biosecurity Imports Levy, which would have created a long-term biosecurity funding model. NSW Farmers was also disappointed by the lack of funding allocated to biosecurity in the 2020-2021 Federal Budget.

These funding decisions are being made despite African swine fever sitting at our doorstep, fall armyworm causing widespread destruction in countries experiencing an incursion, and the coronavirus demonstrating the widespread health, social and economic disruption a contagious disease can cause.

The threat posed by fall armyworm has been known for years, and the high imports of cut flowers has raised alarm in the farming community.

We commend the work of NSW DPI and Local Land Services in establishing an early warning trapping grid across the north of the state, which is what captured the moth confirming the spread of fall armyworm to NSW in September.

Growers in the Macintyre, Gwydir and Namoi valleys are urged to be on high alert for signs of fall armyworm laying and damaging their crops.

If you suspect fall armyworm, call the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881, or email clear photos with a brief explanation to biosecurity@dpi.nsw.gov.au

- Ian McColl, chair, NSW Farmers Biosecurity Committee

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