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Plant biosecurity takes centre stage in Adelaide

RD&A News | June 2022
30 Jun 2022
tagged with biosecurity PBRI RD&A News
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The National Wine Centre in Adelaide saw more than 150 biosecurity specialists from around Australia and overseas gather for the Plant Biosecurity Research Initiative Symposium on 11 and 12 May.

The Plant Biosecurity Research Initiative (PBRI) is a collaboration between Wine Australia and other plant industry Research and Development Corporations with Plant Health Australia and the Australian Government to coordinate plant biosecurity research and identify opportunities to coinvest in problems affecting multiple plant industries.

Nick Dry, Foundation Viticulture, presents at the Plant Biosecurity Research Initiative Symposium 2022. 

Wine Australia Biosecurity RD&A Manager Craig Elliott said wine biosecurity research featured prominently in the agenda.

“This was an important opportunity for the wine sector to show the work that we’re doing to protect winegrowers from the impact of pests and diseases already in Australia and the biosecurity threats that are just over our borders. 

“We know that the threat environment is becoming increasingly complex and difficult to predict so seeing the results of research coming through gives some reassurance that we can assist winegrowers and our counterparts in other sectors to be better prepared for those worst case scenarios like a Xylella incursion as well as endemic pests and diseases like grapevine viruses and Grapevine Trunk Diseases.”

Ben Harris from Treasury Wine Estates (TWE) featured as a keynote speaker on the first day of the Symposium. Ben drew on his years of experience in viticulture to outline TWE’s commitment to sustainability and the importance of effective biosecurity and preparedness for biosecurity outbreaks (see a summary from Vinehealth Australia here). 

Mark Sosnowski, SARDI, presents at the Plant Biosecurity Research Initiative Symposium 2022. 

The wine sector’s number one biosecurity threat, Xylella fastidiosa (Pierce’s disease), featured prominently with presentations from Dr Rachel Mann (Agriculture Victoria) on the development of rapid in-field diagnostic tests for Xylella, Dr Piotr Trebicki (Agriculture Victoria) on the potential for Australian native insects to vector Xylella and Dr Gavin Hunter (CSIRO) on potential control and management options for a Xylella incursion. Professor Pablo Zarco-Tejada (University of Melbourne) outlined the use of hyper-spectral image analysis to detect plant pathogens, including Xylella, Dr Rohan Kimber (SARDI) discussed the ongoing roll-out of the ‘IMapPests’ Sentinels to detect airborne pathogens and pests which included recent deployments into Adelaide Hills and Coonawarra vineyards and Dr Mark Sosnowski (SARDI) outlined the results from a long-term study of Grapevine Trunk Diseases and best practice management options. Nick Dry (Foundation Viticulture) gave an overview of the challenges and opportunities to address biosecurity risks in the grapevine propagation supply chain including work to develop a national standard for grapevine propagation and the creation of a national grapevine collection.

The importance of collaboration was emphasised with Wine Australia’s General Manager RD&A Dr Liz Waters chairing a panel with representatives from the NZ B3 (Better Border Biosecurity) partnership, EUPHRESCO (an EU partnership of 23 organisations focused on plant biosecurity), the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research and the Plant Health Committee that represents the State, Territory and Commonwealth Government Chief Plant Health Officers. Through the PBRI, the connections into these organisations has provided benefits to Australian researchers by enabling the sharing of research data, increased collaboration and the benefits of learning from the overseas’ experience. 

Rohan Kimber, SARDI, demonstrating an IMapPests Sentinel in the National Wine Centre Vineyard

Craig said that another highlight of the Symposium was the announcement of the inaugural Ritman Scholarships to Australian post-graduate students studying plant biosecurity and honouring former Australian Chief Plant Health Officer, Dr Kim Ritman. 

“We had an extremely strong pool of applicants and ultimately decided to award four scholarships this year to give these early career researchers the chance to attend the Symposium and present their work. The research presented demonstrated the scope of innovation that is occurring and the importance of supporting these types of projects to ultimately see adoption of the research to create a stronger biosecurity system,” Craig said.

Tavish Eenjes (ANU), Bianca Rodrigues-Jardim (LTU), Rebecca Degnan (UQ) and Salome Wilson (ANU) were named the four recipients of the Ritman Scholarship for demonstrating excellence in plant biosecurity research.

Tavish Eenjes’ research includes using linked machine learning classifiers to accurately classify species and strains using real-world and simulated fungal ribosomal DNA datasets, including plant pathogens.

Bianca Rodrigues-Jardim’s PhD project coupled metagenomic sequencing with nation-wide surveillance of phytoplasmas in vegetable crops. Her research will contribute to defining the molecular basis of a species or strain in the phytoplasma 16SrII group and improve the detection and diagnosis of phytoplasma diseases of plants.

Rebecca Degnan is studying the impact and mechanisms of exogenous RNAi on rusts through in vitro and in planta assays using myrtle rust and frangipani rust. She showed that RNAi of essential genes significantly reduced germination and inhibited development of infection structures, specifically appressoria and penetration pegs.

Salome Wilson is developing molecular biology tools to validate pathogen (a)virulence factors in wheat rust fungi. Salome works across host and pathogen species and help to bridge the gap between bioinformatics/computational genetics and molecular biology approaches. 

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This content is restricted to wine exporters and levy-payers. Some reports are available for purchase to non-levy payers/exporters.