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Improving plant pest management through cross industry deployment of smart sensors, diagnostics and forecasting


Summary

Objective

This project will develop a mobile, cross‐industry plant pest surveillance network to monitor and report the presence of pests that threaten major agricultural sectors across Australia, including the grains, cotton, sugar, horticulture, wine and forestry industries. It will underpin existing surveillance initiatives and provide a foundation for a nation-wide surveillance network.

Background

Plant pest surveillance is an important component of the biosecurity system, allowing early detection of exotic pests, reduction in the spread of pests, improved pest management, and identification of high risk pathways and high-risk areas to focus future surveillance efforts. Quality surveillance data is vitally important to maintain market access for produce, both interstate and overseas. In addition, general surveillance programs raise awareness about pests with growers and the wider community and rely on people to look for and report anything unusual that they find during their day-to-day activities.

Current surveillance schemes for plant pests in Australia are of small scale and are siloed by geography, time and crop type, and delivered mainly by states and territories. Efforts have been made in recent years to harmonise and collate these many systems, as well as to address the gaps between them, through the efforts of the subcommittee on National Plant Health Surveillance (SNPHS) and as recommended in the Schwartz Report 2015 – Analysis of Plant Pest Preparedness Capability.

This project, supported by funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources as part of its Rural R&D for Profit program, is led by Hort Innovation Australia and includes eight research partners and seven plant Research Development Corporations (RDCs). It brings together key stakeholders in surveillance, to build the national network capability that Australia will require into the future and addresses two key challenge areas:

  • Creating a national, multi‐industry system harmonised across many stakeholders, agencies and programs;
  • Identifying leading technologies for the components of a surveillance and pest forecasting system and implementing them.

Research approach

The surveillance network will cover:

  • building and deploying several mobile pest surveillance units (flexi hubs) that combine trapping technology for airborne fungal spores and insects with cutting edge detection and diagnostics systems
  • advanced surveillance technologies, such as automated trapping and sampling, for detecting and monitoring a wide range of endemic and exotic plant pests
  • improved pest forecasting through linking pest detection with weather forecasting and modelling systems
  • fast, reliable and cost-effective means to identify pests, such as high-volume data collation and distribution, and advanced molecular diagnostics for pest identification, and
  • a cloud based virtual coordination centre (AUSPestCheck) to improve information exchange on pests to producers, industry and government.

Sector benefits

Producers will receive timely and accurate knowledge of the types of plant pests, and prevalence of these pests in their region, providing information to support management decisions. The surveillance network will also perform an important function in exotic pest detection and in claims of pest freedom and maintenance of market access.

Funding Partner

This project is supported by funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources as part of its Rural R&D for Profit program.