Territory’s biosecurity experts protecting northern Australia’s citrus

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The Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade’s Plant Biosecurity team has signed on to a 5 year agreement to deliver citrus surveillance across northern Australia.

The Australian citrus industry is free from many harmful pest species affecting other countries, but exotic pests can travel to Australia via busy trade or passenger routes. One of these is the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP), which is having a serious impact on overseas orchards. Citrus pests such as ACP can reduce crop yield and damage or kill trees, causing significant financial losses for growers.

In recognition of threats such as ACP, the new 5 year biosecurity program, ‘CitrusWatch’ has been launched. Early detection of pests through programs like CitrusWatch can improve the chances of a swift and successful response if an exotic pest is detected.

CitrusWatch is a collaborative program funded by Hort Innovation through the citrus research and development levy and funding is also supplied by Plant Health Australia (PHA) using the citrus plant health levy. The program is led by PHA, with Citrus Australia coordinating program activities, and research assistance from Cesar Australia.

The department’s Plant Biosecurity Branch will provide support to coordinate pest surveillance and community engagement activities in the Northern Territory and other areas across the north of Australia.

Community Engagement Officer, Andrea Sinclair, said CitrusWatch offers an opportunity for the department to provide support for local commercial growers, both large and small.

“It’s a great opportunity for our team to build on the biosecurity systems and strong relationships with stakeholders that were developed during the recent citrus canker eradication response.”

Citrus canker was detected in the NT in 2018. After a significant effort by the department, the local community and industry, the serious disease was successfully eradicated within 3 years. The team’s participation in CitrusWatch is part of their ongoing commitment to prepare for and manage biosecurity threats.

Chief Plant Health Officer, Dr Anne Walters, said the program will deliver biosecurity outcomes in northern Australia and support increased economic opportunities.

“We’re looking forward to utilising existing relationships across northern Australia to deliver surveillance, communication and research support component of this 5 year national biosecurity program.

“Building on our learnings from the recent citrus canker eradication will enable us to develop more effective and robust approaches to identify and target high priority pests,” she said.

“We are particularly excited about the opportunity to engage with industry and the community to extend our surveillance network and improve awareness of biosecurity more broadly.”

The Australian citrus industry is large and vibrant, with commercial production regions located in most states and territories. The main produce grown in the NT is pomelo, lemons, limes, grapefruit and kaffir lime leaf. The Territory’s production contributes to an annual national crop worth over $900 million.

Find out more at the Plant Health Australia website: New biosecurity collaboration to protect Australian citrus industry - Plant Health Australia

Asian citrus psyllid
Asian citrus psyllid (Diaphorina citri) can cause the serious disease huánglóngbìng

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