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New biosecurity laws and the cotton industry

The Biosecurity Act 2014 (the Act) commenced on 1 July 2016.  

The Act improves Queensland’s biosecurity preparedness and response capabilities. Under the Act, we are better placed to focus on the biosecurity risks that affect our economy, agricultural and tourism industries, the environment and lifestyle.

Biosecurity is your responsibility

All individuals and organisations whose activities create biosecurity risks now have a legal responsibility, called a 'general biosecurity obligation” (GBO), to manage these risks. Under the GBO, all cotton growers, consultants and other industry representatives are required to ensure that all biosecurity risks under their control are managed, including reporting prohibited and restricted matter to the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.

How cotton pests and diseases are regulated by the new Queensland legislation

In line with national changes, the new Queensland legislation introduces the term biosecurity matter. Biosecurity matter covers anything capable of presenting a biosecurity threat to Queensland. It includes pests and diseases that are already in the State as well as threats that may be present beyond our borders. Biosecurity matter also includes carriers which can include soil and machinery that are capable of harbouring and moving biosecurity matter.

Reporting prohibited matter

Prohibited matter is biosecurity matter that is not known to occur in Queensland.It represents significant risk to Queensland’s cotton industry. The following are some prominent examples prescribed in Schedule 1 of the Act:

  • cotton boll weevil (Anthonomus grandis)
  • cotton leaf curl disease
  • cut worm (Agrotis interjectionis)
  • western plant bug (Lygus hesperus)

Growers are required to remain vigilant for prohibited matter, whether known or suspected. Its presence must be reported to the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881 without delay and at least within 24 hrs.  All reasonable steps should be taken to contain or isolate it when it is found. It is illegal to ignore it, move it, or deal with it in any way.

Reporting restricted matter

The new legislation also covers established pests that remain under active control. Known as restricted matter, it includes invasive weeds and animal pests of significance to agriculture. Restricted matter is listed in Schedule 2 of the Act. Growers are required to remain vigilant for it and to report the presence of Category 1 or Category 2 restricted matter within 24 hrs to the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.

How to meet your general biosecurity obligation

Know your risks and manage them

Step 1: Know your threats

Gain a good understanding of prohibited and restricted matter and how it may impact on your operations and your viability. Find out more about high priority cotton pests on the Farm biosecurity site.

Remain vigilant for the signs of pests and disease and invasive plants and animals

Step 2: Know your operations

Be mindful of what you can do to manage these risks. For growers, the key is in how you plan your on farm biosecurity. Manage the movements of biosecurity carriers on and off your property such as:

  • people
  • planting material, soil and other farm inputs
  • appliances (vehicles, machinery etc.)

Step 3: Start your plan

Biosecurity extends across the industry. The following scenarios are provided as a guide to inform industry participants how they might meet their GBO.

Scenario 1: Detecting and reporting notifiable incidents

Any unusual disease symptoms, unexplained plant deaths or pest activity in your cotton crop could be a new threat not previously faced by the industry or region, potentially creating a biosecurity risk.

In Queensland, you must report these incidents to the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline within 24 hours on 1800 084 881. In addition:

  • isolate the plants or area affected and restrict movement in or around the area to essential personnel only
  • make employees aware of the suspect area. Request they avoid the area and look out for similar signs or symptoms elsewhere on the property.

If identification confirms a pest of concern, Biosecurity Queensland will advise you on how to proceed and any restrictions that may apply.

Scenario 2: Field days on local farms

There is a biosecurity risk associated with field day attendees introducing new pests, diseases or weeds to the host property. The host property itself is also a biosecurity risk for attendees as there may be pests, diseases or weeds already present that are not present on their own property.

You can make an effort to protect yourself and your industry from risk and meet your GBO by observing ‘Come clean, go clean’ principles:

  • Make sure any vehicles, equipment and/or clothing brought along to the field day are free of plant material and soil. All footwear should be disinfected or boot covers should be worn. Consider leaving your vehicle at the gate.
  • Adhere to any biosecurity practices in place on the host property.
  • While navigating the property avoid entering key production areas unnecessarily and stick to formed paths/roadways where possible.
  • On leaving the field day, be aware of risk material you might be taking with you (e.g. soil, plant material, pests, disease particles, weed seeds on vehicles/equipment/clothing.
Scenario 3: Picking contractors

There is a biosecurity risk associated with contractors introducing new pests, diseases or weeds to the property from other regions.

The GBO applies to contractors who are reasonably expected to know of the risk they represent. Growers who ensure their contractors are aware of biosecurity risks and give guidance as to how to prevent, eliminate or minimise that risk are effectively exercising their GBO.

Potential guidelines to give the contractor to help them protect the cotton industry from biosecurity risk and meet the GBO include similar ‘Come clean, go clean’ principles as described in Scenario 2. Additionally you could also:

  • provide and mandate use of wash down facilities to wash vehicles and machinery on entering and exiting the property
  • encourage reporting of any unusual pest, symptom or weed presence observed on the property to the property manager.
Scenario 4: Consultants

As a consultant, you must make an effort to protect yourself and the industry from biosecurity risk and meet your GBO by:

  • cleaning vehicles, machinery, equipment and/or clothing between properties, or providing boot covers
  • if an area of the region is known to have a particular pest, disease or weed issue, consider leaving that area until last
  • adhere to any biosecurity practices in place as required by the property owner
  • while navigating properties try to avoid entering production areas if it is not necessary. Stick to formed paths/roadways where possible
  • meet them at the front gate then use property provided vehicles to move around the property if available
  • if unusual pest, symptom or weed presence is observed but is not within the knowledgeable scope of the consultant to assess, notify the property manager.

If available, use on-farm wash down facilities to wash vehicles, machinery and/or equipment before exiting the property. If wash down is not possible on the property, vehicles, machinery or equipment should be cleaned elsewhere before entering the property.

Scenario 5: Properties infested with weeds, pests, or disease

Growers have an obligation to manage invasive pests and weeds on all of their land. Examples of situations where the GBO may apply, include when the pest, disease or weed is:

  • causing obvious problems on the land or general environment of the property or in the local area
  • identified or being managed under a regional management plan or program
  • an unknown or new species not previously encountered.

How to notify us of biosecurity incidents

To report prohibited matter, restricted matter or notifiable incidents call the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.

More information