Small Farms

Report shows how Australia is protected from plant pests

The ninth edition of the National Plant Biosecurity Status Report was released, revealing the huge effort that goes into keeping Australia free from new plant pests.

The report includes a listing of hundreds of scientific projects that Australians are doing to provide answers to biosecurity challenges that Australians face.

Plant Health Australia (PHA) produces the report each year to document Australia’s relative lack of serious plant pests, together with the workings of the system that keeps it that way.

PHA Chairman Darral Ashton launched the report on the 2016 calendar year, saying that with increasing globalisation biosecurity has never been more important for Australia.

“Our island nation has a vast coastline dotted with sea ports, an increasing number of international airports and, altogether in 2016, travellers crossed Australia’s external borders an astounding 37.7 million times,” Mr Ashton said.

According to Mr Ashton, every time there is a movement of goods or people onto our shores there is the risk of importing a new pest. And it’s not just exotic pests – movements within areas of Australia such as interstate travel or trade can also give pests a lift from region to region.

“Given the enormity of the challenge to protect Australia’s environment and our crops, everyone has to work together,” Mr Ashton said.

“Of course, the Australian Government and state and territory governments have important roles in plant biosecurity, but so too do plant industries, farmers, local councils, tourists, dock workers, trucking companies, Indigenous rangers in the north, volunteers, and, ultimately, every Australian,” he said.

The report showcases the vital contribution of researchers and research funders. It features 650 scientific studies covering pest management, crop improvement, surveillance, diagnostics, and the basic biology of pests and crops.

The pests investigated include insects, bacteria, fungi, viral diseases, weeds and other invertebrates. Some projects are conducted in the field, some in laboratories, and others including policy research or risk modelling is computer-based.

PHA used an upgraded method of data collection in 2017 to improve the research analysis, and, for the first time, honey bee biosecurity projects are included, reflecting the importance of these key pollinators in crop production.

The report is available to read or download from planthealthaustralia.com.au/npbsr

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