News and Views

Securing Australia’s plant health status

The future of Australia’s favourable plant health status received a significant boost, with the announcement of a $330,000 Government funded trial of AusPestCheck as part of the National Plant Health Surveillance Program, which collects critical information on plant pests around Australia to support Australia’s plant industries.

Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Luke Hartsuyker, joined Member for Murray, Damian Drum in Shepparton to announce the funding for Plant Health Australia under the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper to conduct the trial, which could provide a range of biosecurity and trade benefits for Australian agriculture.

“Australia’s biosecurity system helps safeguard our $9 billion horticulture industry from a range of significant pests and diseases present in other countries—but we are always looking at ways to strengthen that system,” Minister Hartsuyker said.

AusPestCheck was developed by Plant Health Australia through a National Landcare Program Innovation Grant in 2014 and provides a real-time picture of pest numbers and spread, as well as information collected from surveillance activities in agricultural and environmental settings.

“This trial will enable automation of the capture, collation and sharing of accurate plant pest data collected by industry and state and territory governments and provided through AusPestCheck, rather than relying on manual number crunching,” Minister Hartsuyker said.

“It will save time and valuable resources and has the potential to significantly benefit Australia’s horticulture industry, from both a biosecurity and trade point of view.

“It could help us provide added assurance to our agricultural trading partners on Australia’s plant health status, which is a crucial part of ongoing and new market access opportunities.

“Australia’s trading partners are increasingly demanding more robust and quantifiable scientific evidence of our plant health status—and expanding the use of AusPestCheck may help us meet those demands.

“Improving the timeliness and accuracy of collecting pest status information would also enable more efficient containment and eradication of exotic plant pests should they enter Australia.

“I would like to congratulate Plant Health Australia on a great initiative that has the potential to strengthen the way we manage biosecurity risks and support Australia’s favourable plant health status.”

Member for Murray, Damian Drum, said better capturing, collation and sharing of plant pest data could benefit many local Murray farmers and producers.

“Horticulture is highly important for our region, as it supports jobs, our local economy and the wider community, and improving the way we collate and report plant pest data will support our local industry,” Mr Drum said.

“Better sharing of data will help us to detect pest and disease incursions earlier, help minimise production losses and reduce the costs of control and eradication, and provide market access benefits for local farmers and producers.

“Murray farmers and producers are reliant on Australia’s strong plant biosecurity system, and faster collation and analysis is critically important in detecting and managing pests or diseases, as well as supporting pest area freedom.”

Source: Australian Government

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