The first ever Biosecurity Blitz

November 2, 2015

In September 2015, try the Grains e-Surveillance Team from the Department of Agriculture and Food, WA (DAFWA) carried out the first ever Biosecurity Blitz.

DAFWA invited the Western Australian community to use one of the department’s free reporting tools to send a report of a pest insect, weed, disease or animal to the department. The free tools included the MyPestGuide Reporter, MyCrop or PestFax apps and the MyPestGuide online reporting tool. The number of downloads of MyPestGuide apps increased by 500 per cent during the Biosecurity Blitz.

There were a variety of insects and crop diseases reported during the Biosecurity Blitz.  The most common reports were of aphids, ladybirds and native stink bugs. No reports of exotic pests were recorded during this period, however, the stink bug reports are particularly valuable as they will help the team to infer Western Australia is free from the similar exotic stink bug pest, the brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys, BMSB).

The grains e-surveillance project officer, Ms Laura Fagan, said the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources has identified an increased risk of this exotic insect.

“Although it is not currently in Australia, it is a serious agricultural pest causing loss of fruit and vegetables in areas such as China, Japan and the United States,” said Ms Fagan.

“Australia has a number of native stink bugs which do not cause the same level of damage. By receiving reports of these native species we can infer that Western Australia is free from BMSB which is good news in view of the potential risk this pest has to adversely impact producers and the wider community,” Ms Fagan explained.

The Biosecurity Blitz 2015 event also received a report of a citrus gall wasp (Bruchophagus fellis). This is a species native to eastern Australia and can reduce yields and productivity of a number of citrus varieties. Although it has been recorded in Western Australia since 2013, it is not yet established in commercial orchards.

DAFWA experts responded to this report with control extension advice. This was a perfect example of a citizen connecting the dots – hearing about the Blitz on the radio, linking the damage symptoms described to what they recalled in their backyard and making the effort to report it using the new DAFWA reporting app MyPestGuide Reporter.

The Biosecurity Blitz project required a high level of technical and diagnostic support to respond to the large number of reports which came in during the event. The project team consisted of:  Andras Szito, Cameron Brumley, Melinda Moir, Elsie Kinnaird, Laura Fagan, Dave Cousins, Darryl Hardie, Rob Emery, Jon Dodd, Sandy Lloyd, Rosalie McCauley, Liz Edwards, Marc Widmer and Catherine Webb.

The Grains e-Surveillance project leader, Mr Rob Emery, commented: “All members of the project team worked collaboratively over the two week period to ensure all incoming Biosecurity Blitz reports were responded to as soon as possible.”

Along with this dedicated staff team, a number of organisations partnered with DAFWA to support this event including: the Grains Industry Association of Western Australia, Grain Grower Alliance, CBH Group, Wheatbelt Regional Development Commission, GrainGrowers, VegetablesWA, Regional Development Australia, North Stirlings Pallinup Landcare, Public Sector Commission, WAFarmers, Department of Regional Development, Conservation Council of WA, WALGA, Partners in Grain and Yates.

Dr Darryl Hardie, Grains e-Surveillance Team project member and Chair of the Subcommittee of National Plant Health Surveillance, explained that everybody is encouraged to continue to send in reports throughout the year.

“In many ways, the Biosecurity Blitz is just the first step to increasing community based pest reporting and achieving the intent of Recommendation 3 in the National Plant Biosecurity Surveillance Strategy. Now that so many people have the MyPestGuide Reporter app downloaded onto their mobile devices, we are hoping they will continue to send us reports every time they see a pest,” said Dr Hardie.

The Biosecurity Blitz is part of the Boosting Biosecurity Defences project and is made possible by the Royalties for Regions and Council of Grain Grower Organisations.

To download a free reporting app, or for more information about how to participate in the Biosecurity Blitz 2016, please visit the Biosecurity Blitz webpage.

Contact
3 Baron-Hay Court
South Perth WA 6151
Phone: 08 9368 3787 or 08 9368 3212
Email: Rosalie.McCauley@agric.wa.gov.au
Email: Laura.Fagan@agric.wa.gov.au