CitrusWatch’s Early Detector Network newsletter out now

The Australian citrus industry is a large and vibrant horticultural industry, with over 28,000 hectares of citrus planted by approximately 1,400 growers. The industry provides significant value to rural communities and the wider economy, and without adequate preparedness future biosecurity threats pose serious risks to the $942 million industry.

CitrusWatch, a five-year national biosecurity program funded by Hort Innovation, Plant Health Australia (PHA) biosecurity levy, and the Australian Government, recently published the first Early Detector Network Newsletter. Apart from ensuring that early detection sticky trapping is conducted in autumn and spring, the newsletter will also be a source of knowledge for volunteers.

The program aims to expand surveillance, conduct industry training, lead risk assessment and modelling and improve governance and collaboration.

Read the newsletter

Exercise Aggregate: improving industry liaison in Victoria

Plant Health Australia (PHA), Agriculture Victoria (AgVic), and industry representatives from AUSVEG and the Australian Table Grapes Association, collaborated to design and deliver Exercise Aggregate: Industry liaison training earlier this month.

This training aimed to enhance AgVic’s comprehension of plant industries’ capacity and capability to support a plant biosecurity response, while also evaluating the effectiveness of their existing structures and process in facilitating support for Industry Liaison Officers (ILOs).

Around 34 participants from 12 industry groups, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), Animal Health Australia (AHA), and AgVic attended the exercise at the State Biosecurity Operations Centre at Attwood, Melbourne.

Over the course of two days, participants engaged in a series of purpose-designed activities that mirrored the roles and responsibilities of an ILO, serving to assess both industry’s and AgVic’s capacity while simulating the pressures experienced by personnel working in an emergency response.

A highlight of Exercise Aggregate was the collaborative synergy among participants, leading to enhanced comprehension of the diverse challenges each may face when responding to Emergency Plant Pests (EPP).

Participants demonstrated a wide range of response and incursion knowledge, with feedback from all levels of experience indicating the exercise greatly improved their understanding of the role and responsibility of ILOs. Both industry and AgVic gained an awareness of what further work needs to be done to improve an ILO’s ability to positively influence the success of plant biosecurity responses in Victoria.

Dr Jessica Lye, Citrus Biosecurity Manager at Citrus Australia, has already begun planning their next steps.

“As an industry, we will be continuing to train up industry liaison officers both within and outside Citrus Australia. Having that network of trained industry liaison officers will be really beneficial to make sure that nobody burns out during a response,” she said.

PHA is preparing an exercise report which will document recommendations for improvement and will be available later this year.

For more information on Exercise Aggregate, including how it could be run in other jurisdictions, or other training opportunities in plant biosecurity, please contact

PHA develops new partnerships to support and build biosecurity

Plant Health Australia (PHA) continues to develop new partnerships to support and build biosecurity capacity in Australia.

As part of a Commonwealth-funded project, Safeguarding Indigenous-led forestry in northern Australia, PHA has been working with forest health and Indigenous engagement specialists from the Northern Territory Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade (NT DITT), Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (QDAF), and University of the Sunshine Coast to provide forest biosecurity training to Gumatj Corporation and Traditional Owners in East Arnhem Land and to Plantation Management Partners and Tiwi Plantations Corporation employees based on the Tiwi Islands.

Earlier this year field visits were made to the Birany homelands community in east Arnhem Land and the Tiwi Islands. Forest health and Indigenous engagement specialists presented a mixture of theory as well as practical forest health and biosecurity training sessions with Traditional Owners and forestry employees to improve their awareness of pest and diseases that could impact their forests.

Overall, the training was well received by all involved with Traditional Owners also sharing their knowledge of country and ecology with forest health experts. Another series of field visits is planned for August 2023 to continue to build relationships and forest biosecurity knowledge.

Exploring northern opportunities at Food Futures 2023

PHA’s Rohan Burgess, Dr Matt Hill, and Trevor Dunmall recently attended the Northern Australia Food Futures 2023 conference in Darwin. Themed ‘Northern myths, opportunities and realities’, the conference covered a range of topics that showcased northern opportunities, influenced policy creation, and attracted investment to the area. The bi-annual conference was attended by more than 500 delegates this year.

The conference included several highlights. In addition to meeting with a range of PHA stakeholders and collaborators over the few days, staff members in attendance learned about the history of mango production, as well as the exciting future for burgeoning horticultural industries such as jackfruit.

The AgTech showcase on the first day of the conference displayed the latest innovations, with robotics, augmented reality and drone companies all demonstrating how they could contribute to the future of agriculture in the territory.

PHA sponsored the ‘Northern Realities’ session which included a range of presentations covering the climate change response, developing stakeholder relationships, sustainability, industry growth and environmental regulation. Matt, PHA’s Digital Systems Manager, presented a session titled ‘Northern Australian Biosecurity’, which provided an overview of the partnerships and projects that PHA facilitates in the Northern Territory, including CitrusWatch and the ‘Safeguarding Indigenous-led forestry in Northern Australia’ project. Matt also presented AUSPestCheck® and the opportunities it provides for government and industry to work together on joint biosecurity surveillance programs.

Delivering surveillance and resourcing into the future

The second workshop in a project investigating requirements for the development of a Nationally Integrated Surveillance System for Plant Pests (NISSPP) was held early in June, following the recent Plant Health Australia (PHA) Member meetings. Plant industry and government representatives converged to discuss the delivery and resourcing requirements for plant pest surveillance.

To assess specific needs for surveillance undertaken for different purposes, the workshop used a case study, the National Bee Pest Surveillance Program, and three scenarios that included regional, urban and market access surveillance programs, to assess who could lead, undertake and fund activities.

Responses highlighted that although there are multiple ways to deliver and fund surveillance to meet the needs of timely detection and market access, there was support for a better integrated system that:

  • defines and creates value for stakeholders
  • builds capability and capacity amongst stakeholders
  • provides a clear path for participation and resourcing
  • is transparent and defensible
  • is dynamic and adaptable
  • is rigorous and consistent
  • uses appropriate technologies and tools
  • promotes partnerships, and
  • is effective and efficient.

To achieve this, there is a need to improve, build or maintain surveillance activities in areas of highest risk of pest entry and establishment and where information is needed to support market access. No one group, agency, industry or government can meet all of our surveillance needs, and an improved system will need to create mechanisms that recognize activities from the many groups that undertake surveillance and plant pest monitoring, including developing ways we can share and use data from multiple sources.

The next stages of this project will be discussions on the potential for a formal agreement which develops mechanisms for shared governance, delivery and resourcing.

This work is part of a project led by PHA and funded by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

Supporting myrtle rust research and management

Themed ‘Where to from here?’, the Australasian Myrtle Rust Conference was held at the University of Sydney from 21-23 June 2023. Over 90 participants from Australasia attended the three-day conference, highlighting research and management approaches that have been undertaken since myrtle rust was first reported in Australia. The conference was followed by a field day to observe native plants impacted by the disease.

A variety of experts presented myrtle rust research findings, touching on topics such as the fundamental science of the pathogen and host, biosecurity, environment, ecology, conservation, and applied science.

The keynote speaker, Dr. Richard Sniezko from the US department of Agriculture, presented his research program, encompassing many years of screening and breeding trees for disease resistance.

Another conference highlight was receiving an Indigenous perspective on myrtle rust from both New Zealand and Australia. The conference concluded with a workshop titled ‘Conservation and Research gaps and the way forward’.

The conference was well received and raised awareness on all the current approaches being undertaken to manage myrtle rust. Presentations highlighted the importance of interdisciplinary approaches, capacity building, education and awareness, marketing and communication, as well as having a national coordinated approach that can help to manage myrtle rust in Australia.

Visit our website for more information on myrtle rust.

Nanopore sequencing for biosecurity

An intensive three-day Nanopore Sequencing for Biosecurity workshop was delivered by the Centre for Crop and Disease Management at Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia, from 27-29 June.  Three NPBDN members from across Australia were supported to attend the workshop through the National Plant Diagnostic Professional Development Protocols Project, coordinated and delivered by Plant Health Australia (PHA) and funded by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

The workshop aimed to build capacity across the diagnostics network and establish a Nanopore community of practice focusing on biosecurity and eDNA sequencing. It provided hands-on training in Nanopore long-read sequence applications, with an emphasis on amplicon sequencing and native DNA sequencing for genome assembly.

The workshop was tailored to biosecurity applications and included a panel discussion on applying Nanopore sequencing to biosecurity issues. Nanopore sequencing has revolutionised sequencing for biosecurity due to its portability, small footprint, and minimal capital investment. It has important applications in agriculture including pathogen detection in complex samples and crop pathogen and agrochemical resistance detection.

Developing a National Action Plan for Pests of Timber and Trees

In the coming months Plant Health Australia (PHA) will be hosting two national workshops to progress the development of a National Action Plan for Pests of Timber and Trees and its associated Implementation Schedule.

The workshops will offer an opportunity to test and refine proposed actions for the National Action Plan for Pests of Timber and Trees. The workshops will be held as hybrid meetings on 25 July 2023 and 30 August 2023 from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm AEST at the Rydges Hotel in Canberra (17 Canberra Avenue, Forrest, ACT).

How to participate:

The workshops are open to all interested stakeholders.

Please RSVP by the completing the form.

Further information:

Please contact for more information or questions.

The National Action Plan for Pests of Timber and Trees is being prepared by PHA and funded by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, through a grant provided as part of the Plant Biosecurity Response Reform Program.

Message from the CEO – July 2023

An ever-changing risk landscape requires Plant Health Australia (PHA) to explore new ways to achieve and operate with a high level of vigilance and future focus. During the first six months of the new financial year our full portfolio of work aligned to our five-year strategic plan, that supports and strengthens Australia’s biosecurity system, continues.

Producers play a key role in protecting Australia’s plant and livestock industries from pests and diseases, and PHA remains committed to helping producers reduce their on-farm biosecurity risks. The Farm Biosecurity Program, a collaboration between PHA and Animal Health Australia (AHA), recently partnered with AgForce Queensland and Biosecurity Queensland to host the On-Farm Biosecurity Summit in Brisbane. Held last week, the summit was attended by more than 60 industry and peak body representatives who came together to share learnings and knowledge to develop and improve current and future on-farm biosecurity practices. These outcomes enable the Farm Biosecurity Program to continue to develop fresh approaches and ensure on-farm biosecurity practices are top-of-mind.

This month we reflect on the first 12 months of the National Varroa mite (Varroa destructor) Response Plan. During this time, over 130,000 bee hives have been tested, over 10,000 calls for assistance have been received, and almost 100 community meetings have been hosted and attended. The National Management Group recently endorsed a revised response plan to complete eradication and achieve proof of freedom to protect the interests of the honey bee and pollination industries.

On 1 July the new biosecurity regulatory fees and charges came into effect. These fees are expected to raise an additional $35 million over the next 12 months to recover costs associated with overseas imports and are aimed at ensuring risk creators pay their share of system costs – consistent with the 2017 Intergovernmental Agreement on Biosecurity Review.

Looking ahead, the next two weeks are jam-packed with activities. This week I am attending an international workshop in Brisbane on pest risk mitigation of sea containers and their cargoes and the facilitation of international trade. This will be followed by the much-anticipated National Fruit Fly Symposium in Adelaide where delegates will discuss and build a collective view of Australia’s fruit fly opportunities and challenges.

Late last month, PHA’s Executive Management Team (EMT) held a day long retreat reviewing delivery of our strategic plan as a pre-curser to the PHA Board Strategy Workshop being held later this month. The EMT strategy session focused on PHA’s member value proposition, business model and strategic reporting metrics. The outcomes will form the basis of a two-day facilitated workshop of PHA’s Board that will include reflections of the current operating environment and strategies for the company to continue to meet member expectations. The meeting will include the annual joint meeting of the AHA and PHA Boards who will discuss the biosecurity protection levy, custodianship of the cost shared Deed agreements, the Farm Biosecurity Program, and modernising future biosecurity levies.

Applications are currently open through Rimfire Recruitment for four Non-Executive Directors to join the PHA Board. We are seeking applicants with a range of skills and experience in plant health and strategic leadership, and a passion for biosecurity and the plant sector. Applications close 31 July, and will be assessed and recommended to the Board Selection Committee with an anticipated completion of the process by September 2023.

Congratulations to Suzanne McLoughlin who has been appointed as Acting CEO of Vinehealth Australia for the next 12 months. PHA is committed to supporting your focus on helping industry to navigate the biosecurity realm in order to protect South Australian vines from pest and disease threats.

I look forward to another productive month working with you all on continuing to build biosecurity preparedness, capacity and resilience across our industries, communities and environment.

Sharing the importance of science-based work in biosecurity

Continuing Plant Health Australia’s (PHA) plant biosecurity lecture series, Project Officers Luke McKee and Rebecca Powderly recently presented to students at the Australian National University (ANU) studying Agricultural Systems, and students at the Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) studying a Diploma of Horticulture.

Luke and Rebecca described Australia’s biosecurity system and highlighted the importance of biosecurity being a shared responsibility. They also explained PHA’s role in protecting Australia’s biosecurity system and the important science-based work we do in the field of plant biosecurity, such as digital systems, Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed (EPPRD), and communications.

The lecture focused on biosecurity theory in practice, with real-life biosecurity case studies. Students had the opportunity to inspect preserved exotic pests and a sticky mat from a New Zealand beehive used to manage Varroa mite. The lecture concluded with some advice to the students on how to become involved in biosecurity, promoting PHA’s trial internship program and social media platforms.

Overall, it was an engaging session with interest in the case studies, a variety of insightful questions, and expressing particular interest in bee biosecurity and the ongoing Varroa mite response.

Both Luke and Rebecca received excellent feedback from students and teachers:

“The students really appreciated the external non-traditional academic views.” – Benjamin Schwessinger. PHD.

“Thank you. [The students] really enjoyed your presentation and understanding things from the inside out.” – Vanessa Hagon.

Dr Rachael Rodney-Harris who attended the final lecture online and is involved in the ANU intern program, thanked Luke and Rebecca for their expertise and time presenting to the students.

Rebecca and Luke enjoyed the experience and the opportunity to reflect on their own personal contributions to plant biosecurity as part of their roles within PHA.