Message from the CEO – December 2023

Plant Health Australia CEO Sarah Corcoran delivers her final message for 2023. Watch the video below.

Read the transcript.

Update to the Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed (EPPRD)

The 38th Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed (EPPRD) Parties meeting was held 29 November to progress strategic and operational priorities and improve the national biosecurity arrangements carried out under the EPPRD.

This included changes to the annual debriefing process and lessons management cycle designed to improve monitoring and review of lessons identified from all debriefs carried out under the EPPRD.  The signatories also workshopped policy options developed by a working group on the categorisation processes, and cost sharing under the EPPRD.

In the lead up to the meeting, Plant Health Australia (PHA) collaborated with Parties to identify progress against the actions identified in the 2020 review of the EPPRD.  There has been significant progress made by PHA and Government and Industry Parties against these actions, particularly in the areas of training, and biosecurity preparedness.

Earlier this year, Onions Australia announced that they would merge with AUSVEG Ltd and would therefore resign as a signatory to the EPPRD, effective from 1 February 2024.  AUSVEG applied to represent hard onions to ensure that the onion industry retains the benefits of being represented under the EPPRD. A vote in favour of AUSVEG’s application at the meeting means that AUSVEG now represents hard onions in addition to all other vegetable crops listed in Schedule 7 of the EPPRD.

 

PaDIL Future Directions workshop enhances the future of Australia’s diagnostic capabilities

Plant Health Australia (PHA) hosted a virtual Pest and Disease Image Library (PaDIL) Future Directions workshop in November, where the future direction for the online database was mapped out. Attendees included members of the PaDIL Steering Committee, PHA staff, and invited guests representing end-users and content contributors.

The workshop was facilitated by PHA’s General Manager, Partnerships and Innovation, and the PaDIL Steering Committee Chair, Dr Lucy Tran-Nguyen. The workshop focussed on three main discussion sessions about the vision, path to success and prioritisation for the system, respectively. This supports effective prioritisation of planned activities that aim to improve the current system’s ability to meet the needs of end users such as diagnosticians, as well as to further integrate with national systems and resources.

To set the scene for discussions, PHA’s Digital Systems Manager Dr Matt Hill, Digital Systems Project Officers, Evie Kielnhofer and Jimmy Lu, provided background information on system functions and features, and system metrics to reflect the current state of PaDIL. Evie also presented findings of PHA’s recent engagement with national reference collection managers (of plant pathology and invertebrate collections) on their capacity to perform high-resolution imaging of specimens to contribute to PaDIL.

Dr Rachel Mann, PHA’s Diagnostics Manager, presented on potential system linkages to other current and maintained diagnostic information and resources including the potential to link to National Diagnostic Protocols (NDPs) and National Surveillance Protocols (NSPs) for National Priority Plant Pests (NPPPs), Exotic Environmental Pests (EEPs) and High Priority Plant Pests (HPPs).

The workshop captured the enthusiastic and informed insights of attendees and their vision for PaDIL over the next five years. The outcomes will help identify priorities for PaDIL and allow PHA to coordinate activities to help deliver a successful system to benefit Australian plant biosecurity.

PaDIL is an online resource which offers high-quality diagnostic images and information tools designed to assist agronomists, biosecurity officers, diagnosticians, and researchers both in Australia and overseas. PaDIL is endorsed by the National Biosecurity Committee (NBC) as a nationally significant infrastructure for Australia’s diagnostic capability which is supported by a cost-shared arrangement for the next five years.

During 2022, with funding support from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), PaDIL was rebuilt with an improved search functionality, a new diagnostic image comparison tool and increased representation of priority pest species.

Branching out with forest health surveillance training

An expert training workshop on forest health surveillance was held in Brisbane on 7-8 November 2023 as part of the Forest Watch Australia program Facilitated by PHA, the workshop was attended by 20 participants from the Australian Government, state and territory governments, the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) and representatives from the forestry industry.

Workshop participants were provided with valuable insights and practical knowledge on tree health assessments and sample collections techniques. Information was also provided on the triaging process used by the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries to quickly sort beetles caught by traps into morphological groups for follow up diagnosis.

The event builds on the success of the first workshop in 2022 to strengthen connections and improve forest biosecurity in Australia.

Forest Watch Australia, also known as the National Forest Pest Surveillance Program, is a coordinated, risk-based forest pest surveillance program that supports early detection of exotic forest pests, improving the likelihood of successful pest eradication or containment to safeguard Australia’s tree assets for the benefit of all Australians.

24th Australasian Plant Pathology Society (APPS) Conference and Xylella workshop

The Australasian Plant Pathology Society (APPS) Conference, was held 20 – 24 November in Adelaide, South Australia. Plant Health Australia (PHA) was proud to once again partner with the Biennial premier event for the Australasian pathology community. Themed ‘Change and Adaptation’, the conference considered both climate change and the loss of agrichemicals for pest and pathogen management as a result of public health and environmental concerns or the build-up of resistance. In addition to the presidential address on pioneering discoveries in plant virology from Australia, there were keynote addresses each day, as well as the annual Daniel McAlpine memorial lecture delivered by an eminent scientist in recognition of their significant contribution to Australasian Plant Pathology.

Four concurrent sessions ran each day of the conference covering themes including new technologies, host resistance breeding, diagnostics, biosecurity, integrated disease management, biological control, molecular plant disease interactions, microbiomes and disease complex, chemical resistance, modelling and risk analysis, engagement and extension, new diseases and climate change.

Pre-conference workshops were also held on Monday 20 November 2023 at the University of Adelaide’s (UA) Waite Campus, covering nematology, grapevine virology, and new approaches for surveillance and monitoring of plant pathogens.

Several PHA staff attended the conference and Dr Matt Hill, PHA’s Digital Systems Manager, presented the role integrated digital biosecurity systems plays in advancing plant health diagnostics, while Dr Harsh Garg, Project Officer, presented recent updates to National Diagnostics and Surveillance Protocols and the endorsement process.

Dr Bianca Rodrigues Jardim, National Networks and Events Coordinator, introduced the Plant Surveillance Network Australasia-Pacific (PSNAP) and National Plant Biosecurity Diagnostic Network (NPBDN) and the role these programs play in enhancing plant biosecurity surveillance and diagnostics capacity and capability.

Dr Cheryl Grgurinovic, Manager: Diagnostics, presented the national coordination of high-throughput sequencing (HTS) data for a coordinated diagnostics system, later chairing a session at the conference.

Several PHA staff also attended the NPBDN funded post-conference Xylella workshop held on Friday 24 November 2023 at UA with PHA’s Manager, Surveillance Dr Rachel Mann, presenting at the workshop. NPBDN’s support included covering travel and accommodation to attend the workshop for 10 NPBDN members from across Australia and from New Zealand.

The APPS conference provides a valuable opportunity for researchers, government officials and PHA officers to network, exchange knowledge, and address critical issues facing the agriculture and environment sector.

Special offer: 10% discount for FutureAg Expo 2024

PHA in partnership with Hannover Fairs is proud to present the inaugural FutureAg Expo and Conference 2024 which will be held 17-19 April 2024 at the Melbourne Showgrounds

The Expo will showcase innovative agriculture process solutions offering growers, producers and farmers improved productivity and efficiency. The FutureAg Conference will be held 17-18 April and aims to deliver insights into environmental sustainability, supply chains, energy, biosecurity, and smart farms and innovative machinery.

Online conference registrations are now open and as a special offer, PHA Members will receive a 10% discount off the registration fee. Simply enter ‘PHAMEMBERS’ in the discount code box to attend the conference (attending the exhibition only is free).

View the conference program.

Australia’s National Biosecurity Training Hub launched

Plant Health Australia (PHA), the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Agriculture Victoria, New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, and Animal Health Australia, have partnered to create the National Biosecurity Training Hub – Australia’s first one-stop online shop for biosecurity training.

The focus on preserving the Australian way of life continues to drive the demand for training resources to support biosecurity preparedness and response activities and ensure that the necessary skills and knowledge are in place to respond to and manage biosecurity incidents.

“Pressure on Australia’s biosecurity system requires an increased need for governments and industry to work together to ensure we can meet the rising demand for expertise and knowledge,” said Dr Susanna Driessen, PHA’s General Manager, Emergency Response.

“A collaborative approach necessitates the need for accessible online training resources to ensure we have the capacity and the capability to respond effectively.”

The National Biosecurity Training Hub (the Hub) offers a central location with a database of biosecurity training resources to help reduce the duplication of effort and costs associated with developing and delivering biosecurity training.

The Hub unifies and streamlines training to facilitate national visibility of biosecurity-related training across government, industry and community in a single location. The Hub is a centralised platform that supports biosecurity prevention, preparedness, response and recovery by providing users with access to the latest biosecurity-related training materials and courses suited to different industries, levels and skill sets.

Designed with learners in mind, the Hub is easy to navigate with a library of plant, animal and aquatic biosecurity training that is searchable using a topic, keyword, location and preferred method of delivery. The quality assurance protocols ensure each course listed meets the required standard.

“Australia’s biosecurity system is built on shared responsibility for shared benefit. This initiative demonstrates the power of partnerships in improving cross-sectoral national biosecurity capability and capacity to prepare us for future biosecurity risks” says PHA’s CEO Sarah Corcoran.

The Hub features 64 online training courses with plans for continuous expansion. Organisations with biosecurity training packages and who are interested in contributing to the Hub are encouraged to make contact with PHA via nbth@phau.com.au.

Visit the Hub

Get set for ILO training in 2024

Want to know more about the role of an Industry Liaison Officer (ILO) during a plant biosecurity response? Plant Health Australia will be conducting ILO training workshops throughout 2024 to help you understand how to work in a control centre during a plant biosecurity incident.

These face-to-face training sessions will equip you, as a future ILO, with the skills to work alongside the incident management team and provide industry insights during a plant pest response, supporting your industry.

Peak industry bodies that are signatories to the Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed can nominate potential ILOs to register for the workshops. If you are interested in knowing more about the role of an ILO and attend the training, reach out to your peak industry body for more information and nomination.

The first workshop for 2024 will occur in Orange, New South Wales, scheduled for Wednesday, 21 February 2024, to be delivered in collaboration with the NSW Department of Primary Industries. You can register for this ILO workshop online.

Can’t make the workshop in February or from a different jurisdiction? Join the mailing list to stay updated on the ILO training offered in 2024.

Why should you attend?

In 2023, 96 industry participants from 17 industries registered for the ILO workshops, and feedback was overwhelmingly positive. 96% of participants agreed that the workshop increased their knowledge about the ILO role, and 88% agreed that after participating in the workshop, they felt more confident in their ability to be an ILO in an emergency response.

For more information on ILO workshops or help with registration, contact the training team via email at training@phau.com.au.

Woodchat Podcast – Protecting Australia’s forests from the threat of exotic pests and diseases

Biosecurity measures play a crucial role in strengthening Australia’s efforts to prevent, respond to, and recover from exotic pests and disease incursions. Proactive steps to strengthen the industry’s response to such threats are vital for the protection of our forests, environment, communities, and economy.

The latest episode of Forest Wood Products Australia’s (FWPA) WoodChat podcast series focuses on three current local research projects with the goal of strengthening biosecurity activities in Australia, and across the broader Asia-Pacific region.

Listeners will hear about a collaborative effort between government, the forestry industry and community, with the goal of enabling early detection of exotic forest pests and improving the likelihood of their eradication. The National Forest Pest Surveillance Program – also known as Forest Watch Australia – commenced in July 2022, and recently completed its first full year of activity.

During the episode, Sam Watson catches up with Lucy Tran-Nguyen, GM of Partnerships and Innovation at Plant Health Australia (PHA), which is leading this work, to find out more.

“The main objective of this initiative is to achieve national consistency in conducting surveillance at high-risk locations and surrounding areas, to target a list of exotic pests that could pose a high risk to the forestry industry and community, and ensure early detection,” Lucy said.

“At each of the target sites traps are set up to attract the pests. These traps are checked regularly, and we look at what is caught, and any necessary protective actions can then be taken depending on what is found.”

Lucy also talks about another FWPA-supported biosecurity project, this time involving the development of a new mobile app.

The MyPestGuide® Trees app equips all forestry stakeholders with the tools to do their bit and help minimise the damage caused to Australian forests and trees by the presence of exotic pests and diseases. The app is designed to promote, encourage, and make it easy for everyone to get involved with reporting new potential pest sightings in high-risk areas – from professional foresters, to researchers, local government representatives, staff at parks and gardens, and citizen scientists.

Another key biosecurity project currently being conducted in Australia is working to build an effective and sustainable forest health and biosecurity network not just on our own shores, but across the whole of Southeast Asia.

Listeners will hear from Dr Madaline Healey, Research Fellow at the University of the Sunshine Coast’s Forest Research Institute, who is leading this important work.

This episode is the latest in the ever-growing and fascinating WoodChat back catalogue, which encompasses a diverse array of fascinating forestry-related topics.

You can listen to WoodChat on Soundcloud, iTunes and Spotify.

 

Australia’s first National Biosecurity Training Hub

The Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries and Minister for Rural Communities The Honourable Mark Furner has announced the launch of a groundbreaking National Biosecurity Training Hub, which will streamline access to essential online biosecurity training in Australia. The online training platform is a comprehensive library for training packages provided by PHA, government, industry, and tertiary education providers, covering a wide range of biosecurity topics.

Developed by Plant Health Australia in partnership with Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, Agriculture Victoria and Animal Health Australia, the Hub is designed to boost Australia’s preparedness and response capability.

Read the Ministerial release.

Visit the Hub.