Exercise Fastidious findings strengthen preparedness


A report published in May 2019 on Exercise Fastidious identifies ways to further strengthen Australia’s preparedness to respond to a detection Xylella fastidiosa.

Australia is currently free of all X. fastidiosa subspecies and known vectors of the disease found overseas, however, if it established in Australia it could cause significant environmental and economic impacts.

This exotic bacterial pathogen affects a wide range of commercial and ornamental plants and is the country’s number one National Priority Plant Pest.

To improve Australia’s preparedness to respond to a detection of X. fastidiosa, Hort Innovation funded Exercise Fastidious through its nursery fund.

The simulation exercise brought together a wide range of stakeholders who were asked to test elements of a response to the detection of X. fastidiosa using the Emergency Plant Pest framework and principles.

The scenario was X. fastidiosa subsp. multiplex detected in blueberry plants on a farm in Queensland.

The pest was traced back to a production nursery in Queensland and onto a range of additional properties. Only the pathogen was detected, with no evidence of known exotic vectors being found.

To investigate the feasibility of eradication and to develop a response strategy, two timepoints at 10 and 23 days after detection were chosen.

The exercise was delivered as a combination of discussion and functional activities over two days with each day using a different timepoint.

The report on Exercise Fastidious was written by PHA in consultation with the Exercise Planning Committee to provide a summary of activities and a critical analysis of outcomes and learnings.

The report identified that during Exercise Fastidious the:

  • Technical Feasibility of Eradication Decision Making Support Tool provided transparency to decision making and identified areas of focus for the response strategy.
  • Participants reached consensus on the appropriate movement conditions, and the destruction and disposal of Xylella-infected plants.
  • Assumed level of confidence in the presence, absence, or identity of an as yet undetected vector impacted the intensity of response actions and challenged the ability to agree on a response strategy.
  • Unknown potential for native or naturalised insects to vector Xylella challenged the development of the response strategy.
  • Participants found proving area and property freedom was difficult where the pest can be asymptomatic, has a wide host range and has a reservoir in its vectors.

As a direct outcome of the exercise, 18 research questions were identified. Addressing these research questions will support a more effective eradication response should X. fastidiosa be detected in Australia.

Download the report