Mapping Australia’s orchards for improved industry biosecurity and natural disaster recovery

Calling all citizen scientists, growers and horticulture industry experts. Your knowledge is required to improve a new map of Australia’s mango, avocado and macadamia orchards. The map delivers vital information to industry bodies to aid in more informed responses to biosecurity outbreaks and post natural disaster recovery and monitoring. So grab your smart phone, get out into your orchard and become part of this collaborative land-use mapping project.

In collaboration with AMIA, Avocados Australia and Australian Macadamia Society a collaborative team from four universities, government agencies, industry partners, grower groups and commercial providers have developed a new interactive web map of selected horticulture tree crops across Australia. The draft mapping integrates satellite imagery with industry and government land cover data, regional surveys and on-ground evaluations to map the location and area of every commercial mango, avocado and macadamia orchard across Australia.

Launched in May and now open for review, the Industry Engagement Web Map (Web Map) provides stakeholders, growers and experts from the mango, avocado and macadamia industries an opportunity to review and improve the draft map.

The Web Map and its associated data will be used by industry to develop a better understanding of growing area and underpin improved biosecurity and post natural disaster response and monitoring.

For example, in the event of a disease outbreak industry groups can access the map and know exactly where surrounding crops are and quickly develop management strategies. The product can also be used to map disasters like floods, fires and cyclones and speed up applications for recovery assistance. In fact, the map is already providing critical information to the natural disaster response and recovery effort in the wake of the devastating Category 4 Tropical Cyclone Debbie which crossed the Queensland coast on Tuesday 28 March.

The Web Map—accessible from any desktop or mobile device web browser and with no user account or subscription required—uses coloured polygons to identify horticultural land-use classes (mango, avocado and macadamia) on the base satellite imagery.

Stakeholders are invited to view this draft mapping, compare it with their own local knowledge and provide comments and feedback. Comments can be submitted if the information is missing, incorrect or misclassified using an easy pop-up window with predefined options in drop down menus live within the Web Map. Once the comment window is completed it will be synchronised for other users to see. Search for Industry Engagement Web Map, open the Web Map and add your comments!

Stakeholders can also use the free Land Use Survey App (iOS and Android) to inform the classification of tree crops by capturing GPS-coded point observations and photos. Comments and data collected via the map and app will be interpreted before the final mapping products are compiled and released in September 2017.

The Web Map is the first component of Australia’s National Tree Project; an ambitious project that combines innovative technologies such as satellite mapping, laser scanning and on ground robotics with citizen science apps to deliver improved industry information and methods of monitoring tree health, productivity and quality.

Acknowledgments: The National Tree Project is funded through the Australian Government’s Rural Research and Development (R&D) for Profit Grants Programme, managed by Hort Innovation and coordinated by the University of New England. The success of the project can be attributed to the multi-disciplinary team from industry, research/academia and government, including The University of Queensland, University of Sydney, Central Queensland University, Agtrix Pty Ltd, the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland Department of Science, Information Technology and Innovation, and Simpson Farms Pty Ltd.