Biosecurity—Practical biosecurity surveillance resource for tropical plant industries

Surveillance is a cornerstone of effective biosecurity and is essential to managing plant pests in Australia. Plant Health Australia (PHA), the national coordinator of the government-industry partnership for plant biosecurity in Australia, recently released the Exotic Pest and Identification Surveillance Guide for Tropical Horticulture to improve biosecurity surveillance in northern Australia.

Inspecting crops for signs of new pests is an important method to protect Australia’s plant industries from exotic pests, as early detection and reporting improves the chances of successfully containing or eradicating new pests.

The growing rate of world-wide trade, the geographical spread of pests and the intensification of agriculture and horticulture, increases the risk of exotic pests entering and establishing in Australia.

“With its unique environment, northern Australia presents specific biosecurity challenges given its remote growing areas, diverse range of plants, sparce population, and vast coastline,” says Trevor Dunmall, Biosecurity Planning Manager at PHA.

“The area’s proximity to neighbouring countries with high exotic pest populations, further reinforces the effort to protect northern Australia’s pant industries,” he says.

Funded by the Australia Government Department of Agriculture Water and the Environment, the exotic pest guide is designed to increase awareness of exotic pests and provides useful information on what to do if a suspected pest is found.

Fondly referred to as the ‘Ute Guide’, the manual has been designed to be small enough to fit into a ute’s glove box for easy on-the-go identification of pests.

Crops specifically covered in the guide include avocados, bananas, citrus, lychees, mangoes, melons, papaya, passionfruit, pineapples, and tropical vegetables. Exotic fruit flies get a special mention, as pests of multiple tropical crops.

The guide is divided into two sections:

The biosecurity and surveillance section describes key aspects of on-farm biosecurity and how to undertake pest surveillance.

Different surveillance techniques such as visual observation, assessing plants in urban and peri-urban environments, assessing fruit in packing sheds, trapping surveys, and recording survey results, are discussed.

In case something unusual is spotted, there is information about what to do with samples of insect pests and diseased plant material, and how to report the find.

The identification of key exotic pests’ section provides information on the high priority exotic pests for several of the horticultural crops grown in northern Australia. 

While there are many more exotic pests, most of the pests in this guide have been categorised as high priority pests by industry, based on a number of parameters, including likelihood of pest entry, likelihood of pest establishment, likelihood of pest spread, and potential economic impact.

This section provides images of pests or images of disease symptoms, as well as a brief description of how to interpret the descriptions and icons.

It is important to remember that if something unusual is spotted, it may be an exotic pest and needs to be reported. Do not hesitate to seek advice by calling the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.

Visit the PHA website to download a copy of the Exotic Pest and Identification Surveillance Guide for Tropical Horticulture, or contact our IDOs

Follow PHA on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for the latest plant biosecurity news.

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