‘Snailed It’….Nailed it!

Operation ‘Snailed It’ was conducted as a hybrid training exercise and surveillance collaboration between New South Wales (NSW) Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Plant Biosecurity and Murray and Riverina Local Land Services (LLS) at Barooga NSW on 10-11 May 2022.

The exercise was developed by the NSW DPI Grains Biosecurity Officer (GBO) to refresh and upskill DPI and LLS officers with the operational skills required in a plant biosecurity emergency response and to collect samples to support NSW’s claims of an absence of the pest green snail (Cantareus apertus). Green snail was first detected in Australia near Perth, in 1982 and within the last decade near Cobram in Victoria. Eradication has not been successful in either Western Australia or Victoria, however the pest is under management and regulations are in place to prevent its further spread. Green snail has a very wide host range which includes cereals, canola and lupins as well as many pasture and horticultural vegetable species.

NSW DPI biosecurity officers worked with the Emergency Management team from Murray and Riverina LLS to design and deliver a training activity focused on delimiting surveillance. Field crews from Murray and Riverina LLS collected suspect snail samples from over 50 sites around Barooga and samples were triaged and sent to Orange Agricultural Institute for diagnostics. These diagnostics confirmed that no green snails were found during the operation. All involved in the activity considered the training to be highly valuable.

Connecting with QLD growers and researchers

On day one of Hort Connections, PHA’s Karin Steenkamp, Communications Manager, and Kyra Murray, Project Officer: Partnerships and Innovation, attended the Northern Farm Bus Tour sponsored by the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (QLD DAF).

The off-site bus tour kicked off bright and early at the Brisbane markets for a behind-the-scenes tour of the bustling market. Delegates met some of the 50 wholesalers who receive fresh produce from over 7,000 growers and trade five days a week to more than 800 registered buyers.

The next stop was Bunya Fresh in Yandine where snacking tomatoes were being packed for one of the big retailers. Delegates were required to adhere to on-site biosecurity measures by washing hands and feet before entering the packing facility before the Bunya Fresh team introduced them to their impressive tomato grading and sorting machinery as well as the adjacent greenhouse.

At QLD DAF’s Maroochy Research Facility in Nambour, delegates learned more about research undertaken on subtropical crops and major breeding programs for macadamias, strawberries, low-chill stone fruit, custard apples, pineapples and ginger.

The tour concluded with a visit to Green Valley Fingerlimes in the picturesque Beerwah valley. Grower Jade King, who has over 15 years’ experience in soil science and agronomy, shared some of the logistical and commercial challenges in growing this native Australian citrus variety. As finger lime trees are notoriously thorny, delegates were challenged to pick a few finger limes to take home.

Special thanks go to Sharika Johnson and Sophie Burge from AUSVEG who hosted the tour.

A focus on Bee Biosecurity

Following the buzz of World Bee Day celebrations last month, we continued our bee focus with PHA’s Kathryn Pagler, Bee Biosecurity Project Officer, attending the 4th Honey Bee Congress and the 3rd Native Bee Conference that both took place in Sydney, New South Wales.

The 4th Honey Bee Congress took place from 8 – 11 June at the Rosehill Gardens Racecourse in Sydney. The event was hosted by the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council (AHBIC) and attended by commercial and hobby beekeepers, state and territory government representatives involved in bee biosecurity (including Bee Biosecurity Officers and Apiary Officers), honey bee researchers, and representatives from AgriFutures, Hort Innovation and Wheen Bee Foundation.

There were 53 sponsors and exhibitors, including AgriFutures Honey Bee and Pollination, Ecotrek, HiveIQ, Lockwood Beekeeping Supplies and Nuplas Apiarist Supplies.

The event looked at the latest approaches and science on keeping honey bees healthy and the future and sustainability of the beekeeping industry. Key topics included updates and findings on research and projects about bee biosecurity (including pest and disease management), honey bee biology, pollination resilience, climate impacts and the future of bees. There were also sessions on education, training, business building and diversification, and practical beekeeping including record keeping.

“It was exciting to meet many of the Bee Biosecurity Officers and Apiary Officers that I have been working with over the past year. I also met Hort Innovation’s Ashley Zamek who we collaborate with on the National Bee Pest Surveillance Program,” said Kathryn.

The 3rd Native Bee Conference took place from 11 – 12 June and was also hosted at the Rosehill Gardens Racecourse. The Australian Native Bee Association (ANBA) hosted the event and native bee beekeepers, native bee researchers and the Wheen Bee Foundation were in attendance.

Sponsors and exhibitors included AgriFutures, The University of Queensland, Bush Bees, Tabulam real honey, Aussie Bee, Propolis, Sugarbag Bees, Keeper & Hive, the Wheen Bee Foundation, and Hive Haven.

The conference featured industry updates and research project findings including bee biology and conservation, community engagement activities and programs, bee behaviour, crop pollination, and stingless bee management.

“I was able to meet a few native bee beekeepers and researchers as well as Ian Driver, president of the ANBA, who PHA has been working with over the last six months in the development of our Environmental Risk Mitigation Plan for Australian Native Bees and the biosecurity factsheets for native bees,” Kathryn said.

Kathryn provided delegates with the first hard copies of the native bee biosecurity factsheets that were developed by PHA and funded by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. Downloadable copies of these resources are now available on the PHA website.

Biosecurity Training Hub

The Biosecurity Training Hub will be a national web-based platform bringing together all online biosecurity training and resources from across Australia to help improve accessibility, reduce duplication, and streamline resources for broad-scale biosecurity training across the country.

This centralised platform will allow users to find all biosecurity-related training provided by government, industry and stakeholders in one place and will feature training that is available to learners who are external to the host organisation.

The training hub as a concept has been endorsed by the National Biosecurity Committee and is currently being developed by a national working group in a partnership arrangement between AHA, the Queensland Government and PHA. All other state biosecurity agencies are also involved in the initiative through the National Biosecurity Communication and Engagement Network (NBCEN).

The working group is currently seeking input from Government, industry and other stakeholders that may have training relevant to this project to provide details of the training and/or resources by following the survey link.

The initial collection of training information is open until 4 July 2022.

Fruit fly efforts recognised at Hort Connections

Congratulations to the Goulburn Murray Valley (GMV) Fruit Fly Area Wide Management Program and Peter Leach from the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF QLD) for winning awards at Hort Connections 2022 held in Brisbane earlier this month.

Ross Abberfield, GMV program coordinator, accepted the Visy Industry Impact Award in recogniton of the program’s important work in reducing the impact of fruit fly on the Australian horticultural industry.

Peter Leach, Principal Entomologist and Market Access Focus Team Leader at DAF QLD, won the coveted Bayer Researcher of the Year Award for his substantial contribution to horticulture research. He has led a significant portfolio of national market access disinfestation projects on fruit fly for over 25 years.

Message from the CEO June 2022

The past few weeks has seen Plant Health Australia (PHA) keeping up the trend of increased face-to-face engagements with our Member meetings in Sydney and Hort Connections in Brisbane – with both events providing us with valuable opportunities to reconnect with our members.

At our May Member meetings we welcomed Susan Petrellis to the PHA Board. Susan has international experience in industry, research, government, and education, building capability in organisations, industries, and economies across the agrifood, manufacturing and tech verticals. Her executive business experience spans senior roles in strategy, marketing, R&D, and innovation and she is a founder/founding member of 5 start-ups including innovation and sustainable leadership consultancy, Bounce Partners.

The importance of plant health surveillance and reporting has once again been highlighted with detections of Banana freckle in the Northern Territory and Strawberry latent ringspot in Victoria. Surveillance remains a fundamental component of the national biosecurity system and plays an important role at all stages of the biosecurity continuum. These early warning mechanisms combined with improved awareness of biosecurity risks are key in maintaining the strength and resilience of our plant biosecurity system.

Building capacity and biosecurity knowledge are key in managing risks to Australia’s agriculture industry and supporting trade and market access. With this in mind, we’ve partnered with Animal Health Australia and the Queensland Government on the Biosecurity Training Hub to bring together all online biosecurity training and resources from across Australia. The site will group training courses under themes to help users find the right package for them and you are invited to submit your training courses via the stakeholder survey.

This month we farewell Communications Officer, Angus Abbott and Project Officer Rachel Louise who have taken on non-biosecurity roles in the not-for-profit sector. In line with our focus on developing staff, congratulations to Dr Maggie Mwathi-Nyarko on her promotion to Network Coordinator within the Diagnostics team. I’d also like to wish Andrew Tongue a very happy retirement and acknowledge and thank him for his significant contribution to biosecurity.

If you haven’t already had a look, our comprehensive events webpage continues to help you plan your network and engagement opportunities for the rest of the year. Of note is the CEBRAnar on streamlining the risk assessment process, the BerryQuest International Conference and the Australian Grains Industry Conference. Key events you don’t want to miss!

PHA Board meeting 106

The Plant Health Australia (PHA) Board met virtually on 1 and 2 March 2022 for Board meeting 106. The meeting had the full attendance of the PHA Board, as well as Chief Executive Officer, Sarah Corcoran and Chief Financial Officer and Company Secretary, Michael Milne.

Day one’s agenda included discussion of strategic issues, a review of financial reports, risk mitigation plans and policy and the draft Annual Operational Plan (AOP) and budgets for 2022-23. The Board also noted the hard work the PHA team is undertaking to align PHA’s program structures to the new 2022-27 Strategic Plan and the ongoing importance and value of the PHA – Animal Health Australia in delivering national training packages, on farm biosecurity and our roles with stakeholders in Emergency Response and preparedness.

Day two’s agenda featured an in depth discussion of PHA’s people and organisational culture, Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed management and current active incidents, the Mid-Year Performance Report and the strengthening of the national diagnostic system. The Board noted that under the new five-year strategy, the AOP and key performance indicators will look very different to the current format.

The Board also discussed a number of other issues impacting PHA members including:

  • flooding impacts on the Macadamia industry and other plant industries on the east coast of Australia
  • the widespread flooding is likely to promote the emergence of many pests and diseases and continue to place significant pressure on biosecurity staff in government agencies already responding to multiple emergencies
  • the war between Russia and the Ukraine will result in large increases in fuel, chemical and fertiliser costs, and an increase in the price of grains
  • increases in worldwide shipping costs will be passed on to consumers
  • noted the detections in Australia of Japanese encephalitis, a viral zoonotic disease that is spread by mosquitoes, and the human health impact.

Overall, Board Meeting 106 was a productive and successful meeting with Board meeting 107 to be held in Sydney following the members meetings, on 26 May 2022.

The 3rd Australian Native Bee Conference

The 3rd Australian Native Bee Conference will be held in Sydney, 11-12 June 2022. This biennial summit is the only national meeting on native bees, and will focus on unlocking their potential.

Organizers expect several hundred participants to attend this gathering, including researchers, industry leaders, farmers, naturalists, enthusiasts, and educators. The flourishing community of hobby and professional native beekeepers will be represented, and many of these contribute to innovation, research, and development of this growing activity.

Bees are the most important group of pollinators on the planet, in both natural ecosystems and in food crops. Although 1650 different native bee species are known from Australia, the true number is thought to be closer to 2000 as new species are being discovered every year.

Bee researchers around Australia are currently investigating topics that include managing native bees as pollinators of valuable crops, native bee conservation, effects of climate change on native bees, and native bee honey and propolis. Workers are using native bees for community engagement and international development. Close to 40 presenters will share their knowledge, recent innovations, and new methods.

The 1st and 2nd conferences were popular and constructive, and this year’s event is expected to be even better with a hive exhibition, photographic competition, panel discussions and plenary presentations.  A tradeshow will showcase some of the enterprises springing up around native bees, as well as the activities of research groups, professional societies, and education providers. The knowledge sharing along with opportunities for social and networking will create a weekend of learning and inspiration.

The organisers of the conference are respected and highly qualified professionals and include university professors and industry leaders.

The conference is hosted by the Australian Native Bee Association.

“If you are interested in native bees then this meeting offers an abundance of new informative and inspiration. We welcome anyone seeking a deeper understanding of these useful and fascinating insects to attend, learn and share their knowledge,” said Tim Heard, Chair of the organising committee and bee researcher.

Beekeepers supported after severe weather

Recent severe weather events in South-East Queensland and New South Wales have significantly impacted many beekeepers.

Commercial and hobby beekeepers alike found themselves dealing with flood affected hives or had lost hives completely and needed to dispose of hive boxes and equipment in an appropriate manner.

To address the need for assistance, an online information session was hosted by Biosecurity Queensland on Tuesday, 5 April 2022 as part of the Bee Biosecurity Webinar series.

Queensland Bee Biosecurity Officer (QBBO) Dr Dave Schlipalius, in collaboration with Jo Martin, State Secretary of the Queensland Beekeepers Association (QBA), provided timely guidance to beekeepers on how to deal with flood affected hives while minimising biosecurity risks. Sheree Finney, Manager of Natural Disasters and Drought for the Queensland Rural Industries Development Authority (QRIDA) also provided information on flood recovery support options available to Queensland’s commercial beekeepers.

Attendees also participated in a live question and answer session on the night giving them direct access to the expert advice important to them.

View a recording of the webinar

A factsheet is also available that outlines the key management options for flood affected hives and how to properly dispose of damaged boxes, equipment, and spoiled product.

For more information about the QBA and how they can assist beekeepers: www.members.qbabees.org.au

For more information on Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements visit: https://www.qrida.qld.gov.au

Combatting biosecurity threats with science

The recent two-day Plant Biosecurity Research Initiative (PBRI) Symposium held in Adelaide, attracted 150 pest and disease experts from around the country and overseas, keen to share new information on the fast-travelling fall armyworm, among a host of other issues.

The symposium showcased the latest research on combatting threats to Australian plants with scientific experts, growers and others sharing valuable information at the bi-annual event.

Presentations focused on all pests and diseases, with local researchers sharing new findings and breakthroughs, and overseas counterparts imparting valuable lessons learnt.

The program included three keynote presentations. Ben Harris, Viticulture Manager, Australia & New Zealand Treasury Estate, Wynns Coonawarra, presented ‘Biosecurity insights from the vineyard’. Joel Willis, Principal Director – Detection Capability and Emerging Technology, Biosecurity Operations Division, Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE), focused on ‘Advances in technology for biosecurity risk detection’. Dr Beth Woods delivered the dinner address on ‘Partnerships for impact’.

Stuart Kearns, National Manager, Preparedness and RD&E at PHA, presented ‘Fall armyworm continuity plan (grains) and contingency plans.
Francisco (Paco) Tovar, National Forest Biosecurity Coordinator at PHA, delivered a presentation on ‘Forest surveillance – connecting different surveillance types’.

Dr Mila Bristow, General Manager, Partnerships and Innovation at PHA, and Dr Geoff Pegg, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, presented ‘Building capability in northern Australia: supporting indigenous forest communities’.

Sarah Corcoran, CEO at PHA, chaired a session on ‘Biosecurity and industry resilience’, and Dr Sharyn Taylor, PHA’s National Manager, Surveillance, moderated question sessions on day 1.

PBRI program director Dr Jo Luck said pests and diseases put Australia’s more than $29 billion of plant and broadacre industry at risk.
“Industries working together through platforms such as the Plant Biosecurity Research Symposium is vital,” she said.
“This event provided attendees with insight into the latest innovations to help limit the destruction of our crops and support the longevity of Australian plant industries.”