CitrusWatch is rolling out to protect Australia’s industry

Region: Greater Darwin, Katherine Region, Barkly Region, Central Australia | Topic: Horticulture
Feb 2022

Insect trap hanging on a tree

Sticky traps will be used as a surveillance tool for the detection of insect pests.

The Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade’s Plant Biosecurity branch is helping to deliver a national 5‑year program called ‘CitrusWatch’ to protect Australia’s citrus crops.

The Australian citrus industry is free from many harmful citrus pests affecting other countries, thanks to effective biosecurity systems, and our geographic isolation. We know from the experience of overseas growers that huánglóngbìng (HLB), also called citrus greening, has devastating effects on citrus production. For example, since HLB was detected in Florida in 2005, production has decreased by 74%.

In recognition of biosecurity threats such as HLB, a new 5‑year biosecurity program, ‘CitrusWatch’ has been launched. This is a collaborative program funded by Hort Innovation through the citrus R&D 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 (NT) and areas of north Western Australia and Queensland. Targeted surveillance of high priority pests will be carried out through visual surveillance and the use of sticky traps, in both urban areas and commercial citrus orchards. Diagnostics will be done by entomologists and plant pathologists at Berrimah Farm.

Local citrus growers are no stranger to the serious impacts of exotic pests, with many NT growers contributing to the eradication of citrus canker in 2021. Citrus canker was detected 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. CitrusWatch provides a great opportunity for the department to support local growers and to build on the biosecurity systems and strong relationships with stakeholders that were developed during the eradication response. Early detection through programs like CitrusWatch, improves the chances of a swift and successful response if an exotic pest is detected.

Chief Plant Health Officer, Dr Anne Walters, said CitrusWatch 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 the surveillance, communication and research support component of this 5‑year national biosecurity program.”

“Building on our learnings from the recent citrus canker eradication and odour detection programs 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.”

“Our team has a strong focus on surveillance activities to ensure early detection of priority plant pests.”

More information

For more information, go to the Plant Health Australia website or contact Community Engagement and Surveillance Officer Andrea Sinclair by emailing andrea.sinclair@nt.gov.au.

You can also join the BiosecurityNT and AgricultureNT Facebook groups.

To stay up-to-date with more projects, go to the NT Government website.

Back to NT Rural Review - February 2022