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Time to stand up for accreditation

Is it time to stand up for accreditation? The Nursery and Garden Industry of Australia has a series of best practice accreditations in place to assist both the nursery and their customers to achieve a quality product that is produced sustainably....

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Is it time to stand up for accreditation? The Nursery and Garden Industry of Australia has a series of best practice accreditations in place to assist both the nursery and their customers to achieve a quality product that is produced sustainably. These address business and environmental concerns and the Biosecurity issues we face as an industry, and are audited annually by industry professional representatives.

Speciality Trees is accredited with two out of the three accreditation standards. These are: NIASA (The Nursery Industry Accreditation Scheme Australia) and EcoHort, with our application to obtain BioSecure HACCAP well underway. There are two nurseries with BioSecure HACCAP accreditation in Victoria and both were awarded very recently.

Addressing a wide range of issues within the industry, NIASA requires the production nursery to be accountable for their processes with regards to weeds, pest and disease management, water and waste water management, facility standards and cleanliness of growing areas for the prevention of contamination. It requires good inputs from accredited potting media suppliers and the safe handling of pesticides. It requires continual monitoring and record keeping to achieve and remain compliant.

EcoHort is a best practise philosophy rewarding good environmental stewardship. It monitors the environmental footprint of a business and the impact on the community. BioSecure HACCAP is about the recording and management of biosecurity concerns using industry best practice. The recent Myrtle Rust incursion is an example of the type of threat we can face as an industry and highlights the need for greater biological accountability.

The existence of these accreditations has not been publicised enough and their importance and value are underestimated. While they are not practices that impact directly on the tree like pruning, if not applied these processes carry significant risks to the quality of the plant if not embraced in the production nursery environment.

If the Horticultural Industry had wide spread accreditation in place the Myrtle Rust incursion would have been controlled earlier, possibly even eradicating it before it became a problem. So why isn’t there some form of compulsory accreditation in the Green Industry particularly the Nursery Industry? Why isn’t it compulsory for government bodies to purchase from accredited nurseries?

One could easily justify a minimum level of compulsory accreditation for nurseries on the movement of weeds, pests and disease alone. If you are not buying from an accredited nursery how is your purchase being protected from unseen issues?

The Draft National Tree Standard (NTS), will be available for public comment shortly and due to be finalised sometime in 2014, does not recognise best practice processes or accreditations that sit behind the production of quality material. This Standard gives us a basis for the presentation of stock, not a system of processes or guidelines to produce quality stock. The tree may look healthy and be within size index parameters but how will it perform long term in the environment? Has it been produced to acceptable standards and processes? Has it been produced with respect for the environment and biosecurity concerns?

A colleague visited a park in southern NSW where semi advanced deciduous stock had recently been planted. The stock was of reasonable standard but the flick weed around their base was doing better than the trees. That’s what we are talking about! You can’t see this under the NTS but it wouldn’t happen with material purchased from an accredited NIASA nursery.

It is the practices and processes adopted through accreditation and audited by industry, that give customers reassurance on the performance of the product later in the trees life. The decision to buy premium material produced to national standard under the guidelines of accreditation far outweighs the cost in buying and planting twice due to unforeseen issues.

So the answer is yes and we all need to stand up for accreditation.  As growers, we need to be accountable for the stock that we produce. Not only should it look good but it should perform and not cause any other problems post planting. To recognise accreditation, is to recognise quality processes.   If the National Tree Standard remains light on this issue of processes, purchasers need to know that there is another decision to make, over and above simply meeting the standard. Can you rely on material from non-accredited sources?

25/07/2013 In the News

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