High-throughput sequencing (HTS) scoping completed

High-throughput sequencing (HTS) technologies offer a rapid, reliable and cost-efficient diagnostic platform to identify pests and pathogens in a single test, increasing Australia’s diagnostic capacity, and delivering rapid, more accurate results. HTS generates massive datasets, and the increasing amount of data being generated on plant pests and pathogens has emphasised the need for a secure, centralised platform that allows the submission, sharing and analysis of standardised HTS data.

Phase 1 of the project was funded by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) under its Biosecurity Innovation Program. Plant Health Australia (PHA) is now seeking collaborators to be involved in Phase 2 of the project which is to build the database and make it operational.

Phase 1 aimed to develop an agreed foundation for the design and scope of a central, secure and private online location to hold trusted genome sequences for National Priority Plant Pests, industry high priority pests and trade sensitive established pests to support emergency responses, area freedom and relevant research.

The project involved consulting widely with stakeholders to develop not only a proposed architecture for the database, but also to seek agreement on governance arrangements and data standards. PHA convened three workshops as part of this process. The attendees at the workshops included members of the Subcommittee on Plant Health Diagnostics (SPHD) as well as other officers from States and Territories, members of the National Biosecurity Committee’s HTS working group, SPHD’s HTS working group, CSIRO, Bioplatforms Australia, universities, peak bodies, research and development corporations, and the Plant Biosecurity Research Initiative.

To create awareness, a presentation on the proposed HTS database was delivered at the Annual Diagnostics and Surveillance Workshop in May this year, and a presentation will also be delivered at the Australasian Plant Pathology Society Conference, in Adelaide in November 2023.

To discuss potential collaboration opportunities and for further information please contact PHA’s Cheryl Grgurinovic or Lucy Tran-Nguyen.

The importance of PaDIL for diagnostics

PHA Project Officer, Evie Kielnhofer, recently met with Pia Scanlon (Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, WA (DPIRD)) and Dr Ken Walker (Museums Victoria) – both of whom are respected, longstanding contributors and supporters of the Pest and Disease Image Library (PaDIL).

A scientific identification tool, PaDIL is an online database containing high-quality diagnostic images and information tools designed to assist agronomists, biosecurity officers, diagnosticians and researchers both in Australia and overseas.

Pia has extensive imaging and photographic experience supported by her expertise in entomology. In consultation with her taxonomist colleagues at DPIRD, Pia has made significant image contributions to PaDIL over the course of over 17 years. She provided technical insight into her imaging setup and identified broader trends in the specialised field of imaging biological specimens. She also expressed how improvements in photographic equipment can directly translate into enhanced resolution of images contributed to PaDIL, supporting its mission to provide high quality diagnostic images for biodiversity and biosecurity. She emphasised the importance of access to data and information to safeguard Australia’s industries and environment to triage and diagnose exotic pests and diseases.

Dr Ken Walker is a Senior Curator of Entomology who has worked at Museums Victoria since 1981, with a passion for combining taxonomy with technology to increase accessibility of accurate diagnostic information for biosecurity specialists. He has been a strong national advocate for using emerging technologies to build connections between entomologists, insect collections and researchers, diagnosticians, crop scouts, and the public. Ken generously provided an engaging, behind the scenes tour of Museum Victoria’s wet and dry invertebrate specimen collections held at the Museum, including dry, pinned specimens that have been imaged and contributed personally by Ken to PaDIL. Also on display was Museum Victoria’s newly acquired Triceratops horridus dinosaur skeleton forming part of its continuing commitment to producing engaging scientific exhibits.

Ken’s passion for natural science collections is to be commended, as is his many years of service to supporting the sharing of collection data and shaping the evolution of PaDIL. Ken reflected on his involvement in creating the first iteration of PaDIL – an HTML website with less than 30 species, back in 1997, and how the system has evolved to its present-day modern user interface administered by Plant Health Australia (PHA) with support from Museums Victoria, the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) and the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia (DPIRD WA).

Evie thanked both Pia and Ken for their ongoing enthusiasm and shared excitement in continuing to work with PHA to ensure PaDIL remains a dynamic and valued diagnostic resource into the future.

Visit PaDIL to experience high-quality diagnostic images and information tools designed to assist agronomists, biosecurity officers, diagnosticians and researchers.

Citrus industry familiarisation tour

Citrus Australia hosted their annual citrus industry market familiarisation tour from 29 – 30 August in Mildura, Victoria. PHA’s Dr Lucy Tran-Nguyen, General Manager, Partnerships and Innovation, Naomi Wynn, A/Manager Learning and Development, and other key agricultural partners from Hort Innovation and the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) attended to learn more about the citrus industry and gain market insight.

The tour included visits to the NSW Department of Primary Industries’ Dareton Primary Industries Institute, Auscitrus’ seed and budwood facility, Creation Farms & Nursery Mildura, Cottrell Farms, Nutrano and Seaway Intermodal (Merbein).

Lucy appreciated the opportunity to observe all aspects of the supply chain for the citrus industry.

“From certified pest-free planting material (seed and budwood), to research trials, to packing house, logistics and finally to the consumer, biosecurity is at the forefront for the citrus industry.”

“I particularly enjoyed eating fresh and juicy citrus fruits picked in the orchards and tasting new varieties. Can’t wait to purchase them,” she said.

Thanks to Citrus Australia for hosting this very insightful familiarisation tour.

eLearning course for the forest industry

PHA has recently introduced a new online Biosecurity Surveillance: Protecting Australia’s Forests course, developed with funding provided by Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA) and the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF).

The course is available on PHA’s Biosecurity Online Training (BOLT) platform and explores the role biosecurity plays in keeping Australia’s forests healthy, as well as the signs and symptoms for common forestry pests and diseases and how to report them. Aimed at those with an interest in, and who regularly work with trees, the course is designed to:

    • increase biosecurity awareness
    • encourage reporting of suspect pest sightings
    • break down communication barriers between the general public and forest health experts
    • complement other forest projects including Forest Watch Australia and the new MyPestGuide™ Trees that will soon be launched.

    The course recognises that everyone has a role to play in protecting the Australian forests from new pests or diseases. Additionally, surveillance activities act as an early-warning system and will help to minimise the impact and spread of pests and diseases on the forest industry.

    Access to the course is free and should take only one hour to complete. It contains short, graded questions to confirm the learner’s knowledge and reinforce key points of information.

    Enrol today or if you have any questions or feedback on the course, please contact the PHA Training team at training@phau.com.au.

    Remember: Report any unusual forest pests or symptoms to the Emergency Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881 or by using the MyPestGuide™ Trees application (available from the google play and apple app stores).

Register to attend Virtual ADSW 2023 | 6 October, 11.00am

The Plant Surveillance Network Australasia-Pacific (PSNAP) and National Plant Biosecurity Diagnostic Network (NPBDN) have announced a Virtual Annual Diagnostics and Surveillance Workshop (ADSW), a three-hour event to be held Friday, 6 October 2023 at 11.00am (AEDT).

If you missed out on attending the in-person ADSW 2023 event in May, don’t miss this exciting continuation of the theme “Implementation through connections”.  Presentations will include the latest developments and updates in plant diagnostics and surveillance:

  • successful NPBDN residential projects for 2022 and 2023
  • updates to national protocols
  • Dr Sharyn Taylor (PHA) will provide an update on the Nationally Integrated Surveillance System for Plant Pests project
  • Dr Will Cuddy (NSW DPI) will present on the national uplift of State capability in diagnostics and surveillance for the grains industry
  • Carlos Babativa Rodriguez (WA DPIRD) will speak about on advancements in aerial plant surveillance
  • Abel Ximenes (DNQB Plant Quarantine International Airport) will deliver a case study on the Khapra beetle infestation in Timor Leste
  • Harsh Garg (PHA) will provide updates to National Surveillance and Diagnostic Protocols.

Download the Agenda.

Virtual ADSW 2023 is exclusive to PSNAP and NPBDN members. Registrations of interest to attend close 29 September 2023, so register today.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Not a member? Apply to join PSNAP or NPBDN today for access to exclusive events and resources.

Introducing a new and improved NPBDN website

The National Plant Biosecurity Diagnostic Network (NPBDN) is excited to present a fresh digital experience for diagnostic professionals. This user-friendly platform offers seamless navigation on both desktop and mobile devices, making it more intuitive than ever.

The NPBDN serves as a vital communication hub for plant pest diagnostics, fostering collaboration among experts across Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific region to bolster diagnostic capabilities.

Dr. Lucy Tran-Nguyen, PHA’s General Manager for Partnerships and Innovation, emphasized the website’s fresh, new, streamlined design, ensuring a visually engaging experience for practitioners.

Members gain access to a wealth of resources, including fact sheets, videos, National Diagnostic Protocols (NDPs), reports, news, insights, training, events, and career opportunities.

Visit npbdn.net.au to explore these valuable resources.

The National Plant Biosecurity Diagnostic Professional Development and Protocols Project is coordinated by Plant Health Australia and funded by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry. The project’s objectives aim to strengthen Australia’s surveillance capacity in identifying priority plant pests affecting industries, the environment, and the community.

Announcing a fresh web experience for PSNAP

The Plant Surveillance Network Australasia-Pacific (PSNAP) is excited to unveil a refreshed network website for surveillance professionals that provides a more seamless digital experience, both on desktop and mobile, making it more intuitive and easy-to-use.

PSNAP enables members to communicate about plant pest surveillance and acts as a coordination point for professionals and practitioners to strengthen surveillance capability across Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific region.

“At the centre of the refresh is an easy-to-use website that is more streamlined, offering a visually engaging experience,” said Dr Lucy Tran-Nguyen, PHA General Manager, Partnerships and Innovation.

Designed with practitioners in mind, the website offers members access to the latest surveillance resources, information and training including:

  • Fact sheets and videos
  • National Surveillance Protocols (NSPs) and plans
  • Reports and strategies
  • News and insights
  • Training and events
  • Careers

Visit the website

The National Plant Biosecurity Surveillance Professional Development and Protocols Project is coordinated and delivered by Plant Health Australia and is funded by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. The objectives of the Project are to enhance and strengthen Australia’s surveillance capacity and capability to identify priority plant pests that impact on plant industries, environment and the community.

Apply for a place at the Xylella workshop, 24 November 2023

Expressions of interest are invited from NPBDN members who would like to attend the Xylella workshop on Friday 24 November 2023 in Adelaide. As an initiative under Plant Health Australia’s (PHA) national plant biosecurity diagnostics and surveillance professional development activities funded through the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), travel support will be provided to interested members. The workshop will take place after the Australasian Plant Pathology Society Conference (APPS).

Costs covered will include:

  • workshop registration fee
  • flights to and from the workshop
  • one night’s accommodation.

Applications for travel support close on Monday 18 September 2023 at 11.55pm (AEST).

Xylella is listed as Australia’s number one exotic plant pest. To increase capability in detecting this destructive pest, information including images of diseases caused by Xylella, updated sampling protocols, and methods to detect and identify this pathogen from the new National Diagnostics Protocol for Xylella will be presented.

The workshop will be delivered by experts in the field, including Toni Chapman (NSW DPI), Monica Kehoe (DPIRD WA), Luciano Rigano (MPI – NZ), Pragya Kant (Agriculture Victoria) as well as guest speakers Rachel Mann (PHA) and Craig Elliott (P2R2 Consulting).

This workshop is aimed at anyone interested in Xylella, including biosecurity policy makers, emergency response teams, diagnosticians, and industry staff.

For more information visit the APPS website.

EVENT DETAILS

Event Date: Friday 24 November 2023

Venue: Student Teaching Wing laboratory, Charles Hawker Building, University of Adelaide, Waite Campus, Waite Road, Urrbrae, Adelaide, SA

Apply now.

Note: travel support is exclusive to NPBDN members. DAFF (Australian Government) staff are not eligible for NPBDN travel funds and are encouraged to submit an EOI and consult their internal manager regarding travel arrangements. If members are attending APPS and are eligible for travel funding, if there is a difference in travel costs, they agree to cover these costs. Workshop numbers are limited. Expressions of interest will be assessed by the Network Implementation Working Group (NIWG) and successful applicants will be notified.

eLearning course for the forest industry

Plant Health Australia (PHA) has recently introduced an online course Biosecurity Surveillance: Protecting Australia’s Forests developed with funding provided by Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA) and the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF).

The course is available on PHA’s Biosecurity Online Training (BOLT) platform and explores the role biosecurity plays in keeping Australia’s forests healthy, as well as the signs and symptoms for common forestry pests and diseases and how to report them. Aimed at those with an interest in and who regularly work with trees, the course is designed to:

  • increase biosecurity awareness
  • encourage reporting of suspect pest sightings
  • break down communication barriers between the general public and forest health experts
  • complement other forest projects including Forest Watch Australia and MyPestGuideTM Trees.

The course recognises that everyone has a role to play in protecting the Australian forests from new pests or diseases. Additionally, surveillance activities act as an early-warning system and will help to minimise the impact and spread of pests and diseases on the forest industry.

Access to the course is free and should take only one hour to complete. It contains short, graded questions to confirm the learner’s knowledge and reinforce key points of information.

Enrol today or if you have any questions or feedback on the course, please contact the PHA Training team at training@phau.com.au.

Remember: Report any unusual forest pests or symptoms to the Emergency Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881 or by using the MyPestGuideTM Trees application (available from the google play and apple app stores).

The August issue of the National Plant Biosecurity Diagnostic Network newsletter is out now.

The National Plant Biosecurity Diagnostics Network (NPBDN) helps Australian plant diagnosticians succeed together by working collaboratively to navigate biosecurity challenges.

The August issue of their bi-monthly newsletter has just been published, read it now via the link below.

Read the August 2023 issue.