New biosecurity plan protects the sugarcane industry

July 4, 2016

To ensure its future viability and sustainability, Australia’s sugarcane industry has undergone a rigorous biosecurity planning process to minimise the risks posed by exotic pests over the next five years.

The latest version of the Biosecurity Plan for the Sugarcane Industry was coordinated by Plant Health Australia (PHA) through investment from Sugar Research Australia. It uses a new planning framework, and was developed through a partnership approach using government and industry resources and expertise, helping to ensure the industry is on the front foot and prepared for any potential exotic pests.

The new plan formally identifies and prioritises both exotic plant pests (not currently present in Australia) and established plant pests, with a focus on managing future biosecurity challenges. It was the result of an extensive analysis of exotic pests of sugarcane made by a group of sugar industry, plant health and biosecurity experts from government and industry.

According to Alison Saunders, National Manager for Horticultural Cropping at PHA, the group that was assembled to assess threats to sugarcane included representatives from CANEGROWERS, the Australian Sugar Milling Council, Sugar Research Australia (SRA), productivity services organisations, and relevant state and territory agriculture departments.

“Australia is fortunate to have experts who thoroughly understand both exotic and endemic pests of sugarcane,” Ms Saunders said.

“Many in the group have first-hand experience in seeing the impact of these pests overseas, and in dealing with exotic threats that have previously impacted the Australian sugarcane industry.”

The group systematically evaluated the risk posed by more than 240 exotic plant pests, which were then rated for their overall threat and then prioritised.

SRA Executive Manager, Technology, Dr Peter Allsopp, said SRA had a strong emphasis on ensuring the industry was prepared for the threat posed by exotic pests and diseases.

“Biosecurity is a core focus of SRA’s investment for Australian sugarcane growers and millers and it is a valuable insurance policy for the industry. The new biosecurity plan will support ongoing efforts by the industry to prevent new pests, diseases or weeds from harming the productivity of Australian sugarcane,” Dr Allsopp said.

Matt Kealley from CANEGROWERS said it is vital for the future of the industry to respond effectively to plant pest threats.

“This biosecurity initiative provides a great deal of protection for our industry. We now know which pests currently pose the greatest risk to our industry and that will ensure that national biosecurity efforts are focused and coordinated,” Mr Kealley said.

In addition to identifying the worst threats, the plan includes an implementation table that sets out biosecurity goals and objectives for the industry. Endorsed by CANEGROWERS and Australian governments, the plan constitutes an agreed guide for biosecurity activities for industry and government over the next five years.

The Biosecurity Plan for the Sugarcane Industry (Version 3.0) is the first plan developed using PHA’s new framework, one that aims to improve uptake of the implementation activities.

Mr Kealley said that CANEGROWERS was pleased that the new format sets out very clearly specified goals with set timelines, giving more confidence that everyone in the partnership is committed to protecting the industry.

Ms Saunders said that since the new framework has proved to be successful, PHA will use it for biosecurity planning with other industries from now on.

The plan is principally designed for decision makers and more information about it is available from CANEGROWERS. A hands on guide for growers to improve biosecurity on their farms is under development and will be released later this year.