‘Know Your Code’ to reduce fire risk this harvest

Nov 30, 2016

Grain Producers SA and the Country Fire Service are encouraging grain growers to do an on-farm check this harvest to ensure they are meeting required actions under the Grain Harvesting Code of Practice.

GPSA and CFS are promoting a new campaign for growers to ‘Know Your Code’ to determine when grain harvesting and handling should occur in the paddock, including operating grain harvesters, vehicles involved in grain transport, and grain dryers and augers.

The code states that growers need to:

  • Monitor weather conditions and forecasts to stop harvest when the local actual Grassland Fire Danger Index exceeds 35.
  • Remove crop residues on machines.
  • Regularly maintain machinery before and during harvest, particularly wearing parts and bearings, and keep maintenance records.
  • Reduce build-up of static electricity on machinery during harvest.
  • Have a well maintained farm fire-fighting unit with a minimum of 250 litres of water in the same paddock.
  • Establish fire breaks around paddocks or across the property.
  • Ensure all farm staff are bushfire ready with the correct fire-fighting clothing and equipment and that there is a fire prevention and emergency response strategy in place.
  • Have immediate access to a UHF CB radio or mobile phone to report emergencies.

The GFDI is a mathematical relationship between air temperature, relative humidity and wind speed and impacted by the curing factor, or greenness, of vegetation. It means a fire in conditions where the GFDI is 35 or above is unlikely to be controlled by a harvest operator's fire-fighting resources.

GPSA CEO Darren Arney says the code was developed about 10 years ago when the original McArthur GFDI was adapted for grain growing in South Australia. The code has since formed the basis of policy in Victoria and New South Wales.

“The GFDI is designed to be determined in the paddock and used in conjunction with other fire risk management measures, as outlined in the code,” Mr Arney said. “When it comes to calculating the GFDI, we are encouraging growers to at least use a hand-held weather meter to measure wind speed and local conditions, together with the Code of Practice and its Grain Harvesting Operations Table.”

Mr Arney says with the increasing use of smart phones and installation of automated weather stations, many growers who are aware of the code’s required and recommended practices have been calculating the GFDI using apps or other online programs this harvest.

“Many growers are demonstrating best practice by using automated weather stations on their own properties, which proves a serious commitment to the code and its objective for safe harvest operations. It also ensures measurements are recorded for farm planning and management purposes, which is a great outcome,” he said.

“We are also aware that not all growers can access data from external sources, such as the Bureau of Meteorology, in the paddock as they need to due to varying levels of internet coverage so having a way they can easily calculate whether it is safe to continue harvest is a must.”

Leigh Miller, CFS Director Preparedness Operations, says the Code is a great example of partnership between CFS and the farming community and shows the value of self-regulation.

“Analysis of CFS incident data from the past eight years has shown that there has been a decrease in the number of harvest-related fires, and consequently a reduction in farming losses and risk to the community,” he said.

Table 1: Calculate if wind speed is too high to harvest

The Grain Harvesting Operations Table calculates the average wind speed (km/hr) for different temperatures (°C) and relative humidity (RH %) that equates to a Grassland Fire Danger Index of 35, for example:

  1. Temperature = 35°C
  2. Relative humidity = 14% (round down to 10%)
  3. For this combination, grain harvesting must cease when average wind speed is greater than 26km/hr.

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