Pest surveillance study blows back wind-borne pests

Victorian scientists are helping to protect Australia’s horticulture industry by developing better surveillance strategies to prevent the establishment and spread of foreign wind-borne pests.

Department of Economic Development, Jobs Transport and Resources (DEDJTR) Entomologists at AgriBio, Victoria’s centre for Agribioscience in Bundoora, recently completed a Plant Biosecurity CRC review on the dangers of long distance wind dispersal as a means for pests and pathogens landing in Australia.

Invertebrate Research Leader Dr Alan Yen said the research particularly focuses on identifying the location and seasonality of the major wind channels that transport high risk pests and pathogens.

“Wind channels flowing from New Zealand, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, South Africa and the Pacific that can all carry high risk pests, depending on the time of year,” Dr Yen said.

“The project involves gathering and using information regarding the timing and location of the first recorded arrivals of selected foreign pests and pathogens into Australia.”

“This data is then compared with the wind patterns during each corresponding time, which allows us to back track the journey of the pests and pathogens to their approximate point of origin.”

Dr Yen said the research also shows that different wind-borne pests and pathogens travel when weather conditions are favourable for their survival during their journeys.

“Past incursions from New Zealand include the currant lettuce aphid in 2004 and the giant pine aphid in 2014 which arrived during prolonged periods of easterly winds,” Dr Yen said.

“The tomato potato psyllid is currently one the highest risk foreign pest threats to the Australian horticultural industry as it has the potential to devastate our potato and tomato industries.”

“Data from this research has revealed this insect is most likely to blow over from New Zealand during March when there are several days of favourable easterly winds that enable the insects to travel to Australia in 72-192 hours.”

The next step in the project will further concentrate on the wind movements from New Zealand to improve the accuracy of identifying the points of origin and arrival of potential pests into Australia.

This information will be used to assist both biosecurity staff and growers to increase the precision and effectiveness of their surveillance and pest control programmes.

This research has been conducted through DEDJTR facility’s at Agribio in collaboration with Plant and Food Research New Zealand as part of a Plant Biosecurity CRC project.

For more information:
Nick Foster
Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources
Tel: +643 8392 6254

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