Joint Annual Diagnosticians’ and Surveillance Workshop 2022

The 11th Annual Diagnosticians’ Workshop (ADW) and the 5th Annual Surveillance Workshop (ASW) will be held from 30 August – 1 September 2022 in Melbourne (venue to be confirmed).

For the first time, the ADW and ASW will present a combined workshop program themed around integration to inspire and innovate.

Registrations will be open to members of the National Plant Biosecurity Diagnostics Network (NPBDN) and the Plant Surveillance Network Australasia-Pacific (PSNAP).

Not a member? Join the National Plant Biosecurity Diagnostics Network or Plant Surveillance Network Australasia-Pacific.

More information on the program including professional development workshops, timing and Calls for Abstracts will follow soon.

Joint Industry-Government Surveillance workshop series

Earlier this month, PHA hosted its second Joint Industry Government Surveillance workshop on the value of data. This workshop series is aimed at government and industry personnel involved in surveillance, data collection and data use.

The series is a result of the development of the Northern Australia Biosecurity Strategy and the Tropical Plant Industries Biosecurity Surveillance Strategy, both of which recognised that no single entity or agency can meet all the biosecurity needs across northern Australia, and that collaboration and partnerships are crucial.

Discussions focussed on the type of data being collected by both government and industry, how it is used and how it is valued. Differences between the value industry and government place on the types of data being collected as well as differences in data needed to support crop production compared with surveillance outcomes, were highlighted.

The third workshop, planned for July 2022, will build on the outcomes of the second workshop and will aim to identify opportunities where collaboration and data sharing can lead to greater use of existing data. This can potentially maximise the benefits to industry and government based on their existing investment in data collection.

Contact Trevor Dunmall, tdunmall@phau.com.au for more information.

Mango Pests and Diseases update

Australian Mangoes hosted a Pests and Diseases Update on 4 April in rural Darwin, Northern Territory. The purpose of the event was to update growers on the current threats for mangoes ahead of the flowering season and provide growers with some useful resources and material such as factsheets and booklets.

Presenters from Corteva Agriscience, E.E. Muir & Sons, as well as the Entomology and Plant Pathology teams from the Northern Territory Government, delivered updates and answered questions on a range of pest and disease management related topics.

Growers had the opportunity to hear about the mango shoot looper, the mango twig tip dieback, integrated pest management (IPM) and discuss the effective use of specific agrichemicals against current threats.

The event gathered 26 attendees and was followed by a networking session to strengthen the relationships within the industry and encourage information sharing among growers.

Similar events will be held in Queensland later in the year. More information will be available in Australian Mangoes’ newsletter The Slice and on the company’s website in the coming weeks. Visit www.industry.mangoes.net.au for more information.

Australian Mangoes would like to thank the speakers for their participation to the event, as well as NT Farmers Association for their support in delivering the event.

Message from the CEO March 2022

The floods in New South Wales and Queensland (QLD) in the second month of 2022 has certainly brought about a new set of challenges not only for producers but for communities living in the affected areas. The Australian Government has activated support for these flood-affected communities, producers and non-profit organisations with a range of disaster relief and recovery packages.

The QLD Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (QDAF) has also launched a Natural Disaster Impact Survey, developed with industry input, to help assess biosecurity risks and the level of assistance required to support community recovery and speed up the assessment process. QLD producers can also report damage to the QDAF customer service centre on 13 25 23. The voluntary survey will help QDAF gain a better understanding of the extent of natural disasters affecting specific areas.

On a positive note, due to frosty temperatures at the beginning of the growing season and excessive rain in the middle, this year’s rice crop has the potential to be the biggest, best and healthiest in the past five years. Similarly, despite insufficient rain in some cotton growing regions and severe flooding in others, the second-biggest cotton crop on record is expected with 5.2 million bales forecasted.

The 2021-22 Mid-Year Performance Report (MYPR) reflects progress against our key performance areas and clearly demonstrates the commitment and flexibility of PHA staff in finding new ways of facilitating and driving partnerships to improve the plant biosecurity system.

As we look ahead to the next couple of months, work on the Annual Operational Plan (AOP) has commenced and this AOP will be the first one developed and delivered under our new five-year Strategic Plan. Invitations to register for our March AOP member webinar have been sent.

As face-to-face engagements recommence, we are looking forward to the Biosecurity Collective’s 2nd Australian Biosecurity Symposium and the Plant Biosecurity Research Symposium in May followed by the National Fruit Fly Council’s Interspecies Competition webinar in April. With so many upcoming events, we’ve developed a comprehensive events listing webpage to help you plan your networking and engagement opportunities for the rest of 2022.

Sarah Corcoran
CEO, Plant Health Australia

A grower pest ID tool for plant protection and biosecurity

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.

Boosting grains biosecurity preparedness

By GPA Chair and WA grain producer Barry Large

Grain Producers Australia highly values our positive working relationship with Plant Health Australia and what this delivers for grain producers throughout Australia.

Our work collaborating on the Grains Farm Biosecurity Program since 2007 has helped to improve the management of, and preparedness for, biosecurity risks in the grains industry at the farm and industry levels.

Managed by PHA and funded by growers through GPA, together with the NSW, Queensland, Victorian, SA and WA Governments, this initiative provides Grains Biosecurity Officers in each of these five States.

PHA manages this national program which assists officers to deliver key messages by producing communication tools and resources such as farm gate biosecurity signs, fact sheets, media releases and pocket guides.

These Biosecurity Officers perform a number of important tasks to support good outcomes with pragmatic action, including developing and delivering materials to raise awareness and training for growers, consultants and other industry stakeholders.

GPA also plays a vitally important national industry role representing the biosecurity interests of grain producers and the broader grains industry, as members of PHA and signatories to the Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed.

Responsibilities in this area include; liaising with State and Federal Governments on trade issues; funding and supporting biosecurity initiatives; and participating in national committees and response efforts in an emergency, through the National Management Group and committees.

GPA’s work on biosecurity complements our other critical responsibilities under Federal Legislation, representing the interests of all Australian grain producers who pay compulsory levies, which equates to 1.02 per cent of our annual net crop sales.

As well as our work with PHA, these legislative responsibilities for growers includes; RD&E matters to the Grains Research and Development Corporation; and grain integrity/grain market access and chemical use.

On the back of a record grains harvest last year of about 62 million tonnes, the volume of levies paid by grain producers can also expect to reach record highs.

The most recent national figures from ABARES estimate the total value of Australian grains, oilseeds and pulses for 2021-22 at $25.8 billion.

GPA will continue to perform our oversight roles, in particular representing the views of our members, which includes State Farming Members and their Grains Councils, with vigilance.

We do this knowing we need to capitalise on this current opportunity to deliver long-term results from this record increased levy-take.

In this regard, GPA’s 2022 Federal Election Priorities Survey was issued recently and asked respondents to indicate where government can support the productivity and profitability of their grain farming business, with biosecurity rated at about 40 per cent.

A core theme of these Priorities will be to ensure initiatives and programs in these key areas to deliver better biosecurity protections, lower freight costs, improved trade and market access, and increased local manufacturing of key farm inputs such as fertilisers and chemicals.

This will not only boost overall productivity, profitability and sustainability for Australian grain producers, it can also deliver stronger protections such as keeping Khapra Beetle out of the country, to prevent future economic devastation.

If established in Australia, khapra beetle could cost our grain industry $15.5 billion over 20 years and remove access to key markets.

We know increased investment, supported through the government’s $14.5 million khapra beetle Enhanced Screening measure, have been introduced recently.

However, we also recognise more must be done, and we need to do all we can to ensure we have no regrets, when it comes to taking preventative actions on biosecurity, and safeguard our future.

First PhD student at the Plant Innovation Centre at Post-Entry Quarantine

The first PhD student to work at the Plant Innovation Centre at Post-Entry Quarantine (PIC@PEQ) has been welcomed by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE). PIC@PEQ is a team of dedicated scientists working to improve our in-house research and development capability. This includes partnering with the external scientific community and education sector to identify, develop and deliver new and innovative diagnostic technologies.

DAWE is excited to have Tom joining the PIC@PEQ team as its first ever PhD student, in collaboration with the University of the Sunshine Coast and the University of Florida. Tom will be studying methods to efficiently identify viruses in key seed species imported into Australia.

Imported seeds have the potential to introduce serious and harmful exotic plant pathogens into Australia. To address this risk, DAWE requires some imported seeds to be tested for the presence of these harmful pathogens. But current testing methods are costly and slow, requiring dozens of individual tests to detect different plant viruses.

Tom will be investigating the development of a cost-effective method using third-generation high-throughput sequencing. Using this method, it may be possible to identify all pests from just one sample in one cost-effective test.

Australia has a robust biosecurity system that reduces the risks posed by exotic pests and diseases, but DAWE is always looking for ways to further strengthen and future-proof our screening processes.

This project is part of the Modern Technologies and Diagnostic Tools measure, a $22.27 million investment from the government. This measure will run from 2021 to 2025 to strengthen and modernise DAWEs plant biosecurity diagnostic system. Tom’s work will also feed into DAWEs aim of harnessing science to support policy, regulatory and operational decision-making, and to increase cross-cutting science, information and research activity & capability.

If you have any questions get in touch by emailing plantstakeholders@awe.gov.au

Fingerprinting high-risk border pests

Mass spectrometry technology, that can identify microorganisms in under a minute, is being piloted by Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) biosecurity scientists to more rapidly identify high-risk plant pathogens and mosquitoes intercepted at Australia’s borders.

Presenting like a slimline coffee machine, the MALDI Biotyper® was purchased from a German science equipment group as part of the Australian Government’s $22.27m, four-year program to build plant biosecurity diagnostic capabilities.

This technology is a potential game changer – giving definitive results faster and reliably.

DAWE will be piloting the MALDI Biotyper® at their Sydney laboratory on a range of pests such as mosquitoes and other organisms detected at airports, seaports and other entry points.

Using this technology, DAWE will be able to determine the unique fingerprint of a pest. This can then be compared against a vast reference library to identify the pest.

MALDI stands for Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption Ionisation. The MALDI Biotyper® has access to over 10,000 unique fingerprints, with 3,893 species of microorganisms currently in its reference library. This number is growing steadily with use, especially in biosecurity.

The technology adds to the growing suite of high-tech tools available to DAWE scientists and biosecurity officers in protecting our border.

If you have any questions get in touch by emailing plantstakeholders@awe.gov.au

Farm Bio Project boosts biosecurity prep for veg and spud industries

The AUSVEG Farm Biosecurity Project, a collaboration between AUSVEG and Plant Health Australia (PHA), continues to improve preparedness and response capability to manage biosecurity risks for the vegetable and potato industries.

The second phase of the two-year project funded through the National Vegetable and Potato Levies, kicked off in July 2021, after the successful completion of the first phase. The project is scheduled to conclude in June 2023.

The key differentiator in the second phase of the project is the increased focus on the role and importance of urban biosecurity, with emphasis on research, development, and extension (RD&E) programs and farm biosecurity.

Farm biosecurity is integral in protecting production areas from harmful plant pests, diseases, and weeds with on-farm biosecurity practices playing a pivotal role in maintaining Australia’s reputation of producing high quality products.

“Farm biosecurity is often perceived as too complex to implement or unnecessary by plant industries. Since future exotic pest incursions are inevitable, it is crucial to strengthen the resilience of biosecurity practices” said Dr Mila Bristow, Plant Health Australia General Manager, Partnerships and Innovation.

In the first six months, the program has raised awareness of priority pest threats amongst growers and industry, increased the use of on-farm biosecurity practices, provided practical information for the improvement of on-farm biosecurity, and integrated on-farm biosecurity measures.

“A key success factor of the project is to create a better understanding of the shared responsibility to improve industry biosecurity resilience through increased levels of on-farm preparedness measures that can easily be implemented by growers to gain better protection for their crops and livelihoods,” said Dr Bristow.

The project also aims to increase biosecurity risk preparedness and response mechanisms by working with industry, state and territory governments and the Australian government to strengthen biosecurity awareness and reporting and improve communication of pest issues and threats.

Despite COVID-19 restrictions, AUSVEG biosecurity officers based in Melbourne and Cairns, achieved all project deliverables over the past six months. Highlights include the delivery of six face-to-face workshops, facilitation of five online workshops (webinars), visiting 48 growers, and producing 43 communications in the form of articles, e-bulletins, weekly updates, fact sheets and videos. The biosecurity officers are funded by industry levies highlighting the value industries place on biosecurity.

The biosecurity system relies on strong partnerships and collaboration between stakeholders. Strengthening relationships between industry stakeholders, AUSVEG, State and Federal government remain a key to the ongoing success of the project.

Australia has seen an increased investment in biosecurity with over $400 million in new funding to support reforms to ensure the biosecurity system is able to respond to the growing global threat of exotic pests and diseases.

Biosecurity project launched to support melon industry

Plant Health Australia (PHA) and Melons Australia have teamed up for a new one-year Melon Industry Extension for Biosecurity project to strengthen melon growers’ resilience in biosecurity response, recovery capacity and understanding of proactive on-farm biosecurity practices.

With global trade and travel opening up, the threat of exotic pests and diseases entering Australia remains. More than ever, growers are required to be vigilant in implementing proactive and preventative biosecurity measures to protect their livelihood and the industry.

Melons are produced right across Australia (with the exception of Tasmania and ACT) with at least 20 growing regions with approximately 200 growers producing in the order of 200,000 tonnes of melons annually. The Australian melon industry production is valued at $150million (2021). Grown all year round in Australia, varieties include seedless watermelons, rockmelon, honeydew and Piel de Sapo and other speciality melon varieties. The melon industry exports to Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and United Arab Emirates, and is valued at $26.7 million in 2021, which experienced a 40% reduction from 2020.

The project is funded from joint melon industry levy funds, the project will work with growers and agronomists around Australia’s melon regions to improve general biosecurity practices.

The project will also provide growers with an on-farm biosecurity toolkit with resources to boost farm hygiene, biosecurity and monitoring practices. Extension workshops are also planned for each of the growing regions.

A surveillance component will aim to understand current levels of pest and disease monitoring and better educate growers on surveillance methods and the benefits of increasing on farm surveillance for exotic pests and diseases.

The project will also consider the melon industry’s understanding of production and supply chain economics in the context of a biosecurity emergency response.

“Melon producers continue to focus on all elements of on-farm biosecurity, including how reimbursement of growers during an exotic pest incursion may work. This project is extremely exciting in supporting us to get out and about to engage with growers about this critical preparation work for future biosecurity incursions, and also begin to consider options for industry to effectively capture production costs,” said Melons Australia Executive Officer, Johnathon Davey.

Melon grower levies also fund Melons Australia Biosecurity Officer, Joanna Embry, who will be supporting this project. Joanna has worked in the melon industry to varying degrees since 1997 and has built relationships and experience with growers that will help to deliver the objectives of the project.

As the trusted coordinator of Australia’s plant biosecurity system, PHA will manage and support the project on a national level.

PHA CEO, Sarah Corcoran said she is excited to see the melon industry increase their investment in preparedness.

“The return on investment in prevention is higher than the economic return of ongoing management of a plant pest and disease. This project delivers key tools to enable melon growers to elevate early detection and positively position them to respond to threats to the industry.”

Visit Melons Australia and Plant Health Australia for more information on melon industry biosecurity.