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Q&A: SA Grains Industry Biosecurity Officer Shafiya Hussein

Shafiya Hussein has been the Grains Biosecurity Officer for South Australia since October 2021, providing expertise and support for growers and industry, to help boost biosecurity awareness and protections in her State.

Managed by Plant Health Australia, the national Grains Farm Biosecurity Program was launched in 2007 and is an award-winning initiative. Australian grain producers fund the Program through Grain Producers Australia and grower levies, with funding also provided by State Governments in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australian, Victorian and Western Australian. The Officers provide practical services and tools such as the biosecurity signage many growers place on their farm gates and fencing, to help create awareness – and support with biosecurity planning.

In this Q&A article, Shafiya answers some questions about herself and the role she’s so passionate about, providing insights into how her professional experience and knowledge is helping to make a genuine difference for SA growers with greater awareness and protections on-farm.

Pic: Shafiya Hussein - the Grains Biosecurity Officer for South Australia at the Eyre Peninsula Field Days in August this year helping to raise biosecurity awareness.

How did you become involved in agriculture?

I have always been interested in agriculture due to its significance to our everyday life and economy. To me, agriculture was the most diverse industry representing farming, food, clothing, shelter, budgeting, climate, chemicals, design, and technology. I ended up with a pure science degree in organic chemistry and plant biology, in addition to postgraduate studies in genetics, plant breeding and entomology.

My agricultural career started as a Research Officer with PIRSA South Australian Research Development Institute (SARDI) in the New Variety Agronomy Project. Later, I joined a private wheat breeding company, LongReach Plant Breeders Management Pty. Ltd. as the pure seed manager. To expand my role, I initiated a wheat quality laboratory for improved grain quality assessments and set up a simple but effective hydroponics rapid screenings system. Whilst at LongReach Plant Breeders, I also worked on a research project funded by South Australian Grain Trust (SAGIT) on the development of awnless wheat varieties (APW/AH) for dual-purpose grain and hay production to better manage frost risk in low and high rainfall wheat productions areas of South Australia.

What are your aims as a biosecurity officer?

To increase SA grain producers' awareness of crucial biosecurity risks facing their farm, an ability to identify biosecurity threats and to be prepared to manage those threats if present. I will do these by:

· Communicate, consult, and work with growers, agronomists, researchers, and stakeholders who are leaders in the field of on-farm grain biosecurity to deliver current information via various media channels.

· Provide contemporary biosecurity information via the ‘Biosecurity Bulletin’ in the SA Stock Journal.

· Run workshops on exotic pest identifications, grain storage pests, grain storage silo pressure tests and recommended fumigation rates in regional locations.

· Conduct targeted surveillance for exotic pests such as Khapra beetle on SA grain farms and storage facilities state-wide.

· Support national phosphine-resistant grain storage pest surveillance.

· Promote the principles of farm biosecurity planning of farm hygiene, used machinery transfers, farm quarantine practices, grain, hay, fertiliser, and stock logistics.

· Be recognised state-wide as the key contact for grain producers and industry bodies on biosecurity-related concerns.

What do you enjoy most about your role as a biosecurity officer?

· I enjoy Interacting with grain growers and agronomists to educate them about exotic grain pests and how to differentiate them from endemic species.

· I am very passionate about ensuring that every grain producer and agronomist in SA knows who the SAGBO is and the vital role we play with growers in protecting our state's ability to trade free of damaging pests and diseases.

Are there priorities specific to your region? What are the top three?

SA gain producers face many of the threats of other states. Exotic pests and disease incursions are a high priority. To manage this, SA is focused on surveillance, monitoring and education. Exotic high-priority grain pests can devastate South Australia’s $4.3 billion grains industry via production and export market losses.

The SAGBO has been directly involved in surveillance coordination and facilitation. Identified SA’s top five HPPs to research and develop surveillance activities:

1. Karnal Bunt, Tilletia indica -Fungi

2. Khapra Beetle, Trogoderma granarium

3. Wheat Stem Rust (Ug99), Puccinia graminis f.sp.triticii

4. Barley Stripe Rust, Puccinia striiformis f.sp.hordei

5. Flat Grain Beetle, Cryptolestes ferrugineus Rice weevil, Sitophilus oryzae - (Phosphine Resistant Grain Storage Insects)

Give an example of how your work with the Grains Farm Biosecurity Program has helped the industry

The SAGBO has identified there would be a benefit in more comprehensive grain industry surveillance across the State. To support proof of freedom, GBO has implemented a variety of surveillance processes to monitor grain pests and diseases in SA, including active, passive, sentinel and general surveillance.

This surveillance, monitoring and education project aimed to:

1. Identify high-risk pathways of South Australia’s five high-priority grain pests for surveillance activities.

2. Develop protocols, workshops and learning materials to create grain exotic pests awareness, identification and reporting channel in South Australia.

3. Develop an annual surveillance plan and conduct surveillance in South Australia.

4. Work in collaboration with the SARDI entomology and pathology department to identify invertebrates in traps, pulse, and cereal diseases. Catalogue all pests and diseases and provide summary reports to grain growers for continuous monitoring on-farm. In addition, deliver dermestids for further diagnostic analysis to confirm or deny the presence of khapra beetle.

5. Educate and promote on-farm monitoring of pests and diseases.

What’s one thing you wish more growers would do to reduce their biosecurity risk?

Constant monitoring and vigilance on farm by adopting the grains farm biosecurity plan and reporting anything unusual to the pest hotline or State GBO.

What’s your vision for the future of biosecurity in Australia?

Grain producers are the industry leaders in biosecurity planning with real-time monitoring and surveillance for pests and diseases. Trading partners recognise and reward Australia's biosecurity status. By advocating for more financial resources to be able to comfortably run exotic pest surveillances. A well budgeted program will ensure more areas and grain pests are covered in surveillance to provide area of freedom certification. This will give greater confidence to grain growers and trading partners and achieve a premium price.

Public contact details:


Phone 0437 723 295


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