Lankesters shut the gate to Panama

Michael & Lisa Lankester grow 60 hectares of Lady Finger bananas and five hectares of trellised custard apples at Walkamin.
The Lankesters took a number of steps to keep out Race 1 Panama disease, which was detected on a nearby Lady Finger farm not long before they purchased their property.

They have kept Panama off their farm despite its presence on some other Tablelands properties for about eight years.

Biosecurity is now second nature to farm visitors and staff with key measures including fencing and a closed front gate biosecurity signage, visits by appointment, no unnecessary vehicles on the farm and a vehicle dip and footwear wash downs for those who do enter.

“Now TR4 has been found we stepped it up to another level,” Michael said of the farm’s biosecurity.

“We actually had signs in place before but we’ve changed those.

“We have entry by appointment only, we keep the gate shut during work hours and we put a foot bath at the gate.

“We just can’t afford to get complacent, I don’t think anyone in the whole industry can get complacent now.”

When the Lankesters’ bought the property it was already fenced, providing an opportunity to restrict access to a single entry.

As Panama can move in infected soil that can be carried on vehicles, they immediately began ensuring visiting vehicles’ tyres and wheel arches were sprayed at the farm gate using sanitiser in a knapsack pump.

Michael investigated options for vehicle dips and spray systems and decided on a vehicle dip which was built at the farm’s entry to ensure all vehicles needing to drive onto the farm passed through a dip charged with Farmcleanse®.

Contractors who are regularly driving and using equipment on other banana farms must leave their vehicles outside the farm gate. The Lankesters then provide a vehicle and the necessary farm equipment for contractors to use while on their farm.

An easement for Sun Water, the local irrigation scheme providers, was present on the Lankesters’ farm. This was identified as a potential risk pathway onto their property so they approached Sun Water and asked them to close the easement and instead use the front main access via the dip.  They were happy to comply and the easement is no longer in use.

The Lankesters believe people are creatures of habit and it’s a matter of making biosecurity practices part of an everyday routine. They have integrated biosecurity into their business so it’s now ‘standard’ practice at their farm.

They believe every biosecurity initiative done correctly and effectively is like another brick in a wall strengthening a growing region’s biosecurity defences. Not only does it act as a physical barrier to disease but also an incentive for others to move along the same path and create a biosecurity-aware farming community.

In this way, one farm’s actions can help a region to improve its overall biosecurity profile, generating benefits for everyone.