A grower pest ID tool for plant protection and biosecurity

  • A grower pest ID tool for plant protection and biosecurity image

Quick identification and management of pests, diseases, and weeds is vital to maintaining a profitable plant production business. Over the years several variations of pest identification reference books, field guides and Apps have been used to assist in identifying plant pests and diseases, however these have had limitations (e.g., bulky, not easily carried or updated, etc). Members of the Australian horticultural industry, and all plant producers, now have access to the web-based Pest Identification Tool at no cost. It is an easy-to-use resource for all growers and plant producers that will help with plant pest identification and management.

The Pest ID Tool provides growers with images and information to help in identifying and treating the plant pest and disease issues that they may encounter. It was developed by Nursery & Garden Industry Queensland, with support and assistance from Greenlife Industry Australia, Hort Innovation and nursery industry funds through Plant Health Australia (PHA) converting information from hardcopy to an electronic format for digital devices e.g., smart phones.  As nursery production provides ‘starter plant stock’ for many horticultural cropping systems the pest and disease information is relevant to all connected sectors across plant production supply chains.

The platform is a ‘living’ resource in that it is constantly being expanded in content, unlike most plant pest identification field guides and Apps that are infrequently updated. The pest page content and images are sourced from a wide variety of national and international research groups, government departments, universities, and extension organisations to ensure the latest information and photographs are available to growers.  Information on emergency plant pests detected in Australia is uploaded as quickly as the data is provided and in most cases identification images, etc., are available within 24 hours of notification.

This resource is available online at www.pestid.com.au, and can be viewed on a computer, smart phone or tablet with internet coverage. It provides a virtual library with over 3800 entries of practical, relevant information easily accessible, both in the field and in the office. Photographs showing disease symptoms, pest damage and the different pest life stages are provided to assist the grower quickly recognise plant pests and diseases in the field. There is advice on diagnosing plant diseases, integrated pest management, beneficial insects as biocontrol treatments, insect pest life cycles, and plant disorders. Information on emergency plant pests (insects & diseases) not yet present in Australia and pest plants (weeds) are included to assist in monitoring crops and early detection.

The Pest ID Tool database can be searched using pest name or keyword, or by the type of pest (pest, disease, nutritional disorder or weed), or by specific pest categories such as caterpillar, aphid, beetle, etc. All entries in a category can be viewed by accessing the individual databases. There is also an option to search specific crop types to identify plant diseases according to the host plant and its disease symptoms. It has been developed to help production managers with plant protection and biosecurity practices such as monitoring pests and diseases, managing endemic plant pests, inspection of incoming stock, and the inspection of stock at dispatch.

The Pest ID Tool is currently in the process of being upgraded to a new website platform that will allow it to be used on a wide variety of devices with quicker access, provide a faster search response, and improve photo resolution for easier pest identification. This will also increase the speed of adding new information and photographs to ensure databases are kept up-to-date. The addition of ‘pests of importance’ on the landing page will allow rapid response to any new pest incursions that occur and the ongoing expansion of the content will lead to an increasingly comprehensive and practical library of pest-related information for all plant and crop producers across the horticultural industries. It certainly is worth investigating this important resource to discover how it can assist in farm plant protection and biosecurity plus the value it can provide to an array of cropping systems.

The Pest ID Tool is industry owned and specifically designed for growers to use in their plant protection programs underpinning the knowledge-based decision making supporting integrated cropping systems.