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Q&A: NSW Grains Industry Biosecurity Officer Kate Glastonbury

Kate Glastonbury has been the Grains Biosecurity Officer for NSW since March 2022.

Managed by Plant Health Australia, the national Grains Farm Biosecurity Program was launched in 2007. The program is an initiative to improve the management of, and preparedness for, biosecurity risks in the grains industry at the farm and industry levels. It is funded by growers through Grain Producers Australia together with the New South Wales, Queensland, South Australian, Victorian and Western Australian governments.

Kate answers some questions about herself and the role, in the following article.

· How did you become involved in agriculture?

Growing up in regional NSW, friends and family had properties that I would often visit so they

were my first experiences in agriculture. As well as that, my husband’s family has a farm, so I have helped out a lot on the family’s property. I studied Zoology at the University of New England and since graduating, my roles have been involved in agriculture, from working with farmers in the Rural Assistance Authority, to working in the NSW Khapra beetle eradication response, with Khapra beetle being a high priority exotic grains pest.

· What are your aims as a biosecurity officer?

My aims are to educate grains stakeholders at all levels about the importance of biosecurity, early detection and reporting, and to show them that biosecurity does not have to be as complicated as they might first think. I also aim to educate people about the Grains Farm Biosecurity Program (GFBP) and give them the tools and support they need to improve their biosecurity knowledge and practices.

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

I certainly enjoy the diversity the role brings. No two weeks are the same and I get to do a range of activities, including writing articles and factsheets, attending field days and workshops where I get to meet people from across the industry, and planning and conducting surveillance for key grains pests.

I also like the fact that I can make a difference to the state and the country through the GFBP by educating people about biosecurity and by participating in state emergency responses.

· Are there priorities specific to your region?

While there are national priorities under the GFBP particularly for exotic grains pests, there are additional priorities for NSW for pests that are in other states but not in NSW.

Lupin anthracnose is a disease not currently present in NSW that we are looking to do more surveillance for to support our freedom status which in turn supports the measures we have in place to reduce the risk of it entering NSW. It is a disease that is present in South Australia and Western Australia, but not NSW since it was declared eradicated in 2019 after a detection in 2016.

There are some other priorities for NSW that are not necessarily NSW-specific. I am looking to increase the uptake of biosecurity signs and plans in the state and grower engagement in biosecurity, as well as encourage people to know what is normal in their crops and stored grain and to report anything different or suspicious to the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline.

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

I am still relatively new to the role, but I think my presence at field days has helped the industry as I have spoken to many farmers about farm biosecurity plans and have handed out hundreds of biosecurity signs. I have been raising awareness of biosecurity across the state and have hopefully helped people to take the next step in improving their on-farm biosecurity as many now understand that biosecurity does not have to be complicated, and it can take just a few simple steps to minimise the risk of the introduction and spread of pests and diseases.

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

I would ideally like more farmers to have biosecurity plans in place for their properties and to regularly monitor their farm and report anything suspicious – we all have a part to play in keeping the country safe from biosecurity threats, starting at the on-farm level, so I would really like to see an increase in this and overall engagement with biosecurity.

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

I think my vision would be that we develop more technologies and methods for detecting pests, preferably before they get past the border or at least before they have the chance to establish and spread in areas where they will have a serious impact. We are a fortunate country, in a biosecurity sense, to be isolated from the rest of the world, however international travel and shipping brings with it increased biosecurity risks.

I would also love for the general population to have increased awareness, interest and active participation in biosecurity as it has been members of the public who have alerted us to key detections of exotic pests in the past.


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