Victoria’s canola crops threatened by farm photos

Deane grows both genetically modified and non-GM canola, the latter fetching a higher price.

An aerial photo of Ashley Fraser’s canola crop.

An aerial photo of Ashley Fraser’s canola crop.

He said canola was now among the essential “rotation” crops for many farmers, maintaining healthy soil balance between other crops including wheat and lentils.

“[Canola] enables me to go back next year into growing wheat.”

Canola production has grown markedly in Victoria over the past few decades. But Grain Producers Australia southern director Andrew Weidemann said wet paddocks in the western district might prevent Victoria from breaking its canola production record.

“We’ve certainly had enough rain,” he said. “Now it’s a matter of managing diseases because of the moisture and expected warmer days.”

Frank Deane with his canola crop.

Frank Deane with his canola crop.Credit:Paul Jeffers

Trespassers are giving farmers a new reason to be nervous before this year’s harvest.

Deane said that in previous years, he was unperturbed when he saw passers-by and even professional models posing for photographs in his canola fields, often without asking permission.

But the threat of the foot and mouth livestock disease, which has recently spread rapidly in Indonesia, made trespassing on farms increasingly dangerous.

The disease is highly contagious and infects cattle, sheep, goats, camels, deer and pigs. Although it does not affect humans, foot and mouth can be spread on clothes and shoes.

Farmers Jonathan Collins and Ashley Fraser preparing to sow canola last year.

Farmers Jonathan Collins and Ashley Fraser preparing to sow canola last year.Credit:Jason Robins

Victorian Farmers Federationgrains president Ashley Fraser has already spotted several snap-happy people in his fields this spring.

“We have had guys drive up our driveway, almost to our house, and then jump out and start taking photos in our crop,” he said. “For some reason this year, I don’t know why, people are thinking nothing of just jumping the fence and going into a crop.”

Fraser said foot and mouth disease could spread from canola crops to livestock if people carrying traces of the disease jumped fences to take photos.

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But the biosecurity risk is not limited to foot and mouth disease. Fungal diseases – which spread most rapidly when it’s wet and humid – can also result in lower yields for canola crops and may cause long-term problems if they became entrenched in fields.

“You can bring fungal diseases from the roadside of wherever you have been, on the soles of your shoes into the paddocks,” Fraser said.

“When canola is flowering, especially in a wet spring like we have got, there can be foliar diseases within the crop that can be picked up.”

Fraser said there was no problem with people taking photos of a canola field in full bloom, but he urged them not to jump a fence to do it.

“Enjoy the picture from a distance,” he said. “Everyone has zoom on their cameras, so zoom in from a distance, don’t walk into a paddock.”

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