The future looks brighter for Australian apple and pear growers following the finalisation of a biosecurity plan for the industry.
To ensure its future viability and sustainability, the apple and pear industry has undergone a rigorous biosecurity planning process to minimise the risks posed by exotic pests and diseases. Endorsed by APAL, the commonwealth government and all state and territory governemnts, the plan constitutes an agreed guide for biosecurity activities for industry and government over the next five years. A strategic levy investment under the Hort Innovation Apple and Pear Fund, the plan was funded by Hort Innovation using apple and pear levy and funds from the Australian Government, with Plant Health Australia producing the report.
One thing that becomes clear from any biosecurity planning process is that we cannot assume that distance alone will protect us from pests and diseases that are common overseas. Rapid increases in overseas tourism, imports and exports, mail and transport procedures, as well as the potential for pests to enter via natural or illegal routes, mean that relying on border control and quarantine measures is not enough.
What’s in a biosecurity plan and how is it made?
The latest version of the Biosecurity Plan for the Apple and Pear Industry was developed with government and industry resources and expertise and the experience of growers. The planning process takes stock of what pests and diseases apple and pear growers already have to deal with and the pests and diseases that are exotic (not yet in the country).
Many in the group have seen the impact of these pests overseas and have experience in dealing with endemic pests that can affect the Australian apple and pear industry. The group systematically evaluated the risk posed by almost 250 exotic pests of apple and pears, which were then rated for their overall threat and prioritised. The highest-priority exotic pests and diseases are:
- Oriental fruit fly (Bactrocera dorsalis)
- Apple leaf-curling midge (Dasineura mali)
- Spotted-wing drosophila (Drosophila suzukii)
- Apple maggot (Rhagoletis pomonella)
- Stink bugs and aphids
- Brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys)
- Rosy apple aphid (Dysaphis plantaginea)
- Moths and butterflies
- Peach fruit moth, small peach fruit borer (Carposina sasakii)
- Manchurian fruit moth (Cydia inopinata)
- Gypsy moth – Asian and European strains (Lymantria dispar)
- Rosy gypsy moth (Lymantria mathura)
- Nun moth (Lymantria monacha)
- Pollination pests
- Tropilaelaps mites (Tropilaelaps mercedesae and Tropilaelaps clareae)
- Varroa mite (Varroa destructor)
- Diseases (bacteria and fungi)
- Fire blight (Erwinia amylovora)
- Brown rot (Monilinia fructigena)
- Monilinia leaf blight (Monilinia mali)
- Asiatic brown rot (Monilinia polystroma)
- European canker (Neonectria ditissima)
Biosecurity for the apple and pear industry has been brought into sharp focus because of the effect the disease fire blight is having on apple and pear growers overseas and its standing as a major concern for the industry in Australia. The complete list of pests and weeds is in the biosecurity plan, available from APAL.
Why have an industry plan?
A biosecurity plan is a key step in protecting the ongoing viability of an industry. By identifying exotic pests and diseases that pose the greatest risk to each industry, plans like this allow preparedness and prevention measures to be agreed, funded and implemented.
Biosecurity plans include activities for governments and industries to undertake, as well as growers. They also provide priorities for research and development needs so that researchers and their funders know where to put their efforts. It’s important that all the players in the biosecurity system are working together to guard against pests and diseases.
Fact sheets describing how to identify fire blight and how we will respond if it makes it into Australia already exist. The Australian Government will be reviewing the methods used to diagnose the disease to make sure that the most up-to-date scientific methods are being used.
For its part, the apple and pear industry can circulate the fact sheet for fire blight and create fact sheets and other material for the other high-priority exotic pests and diseases to help growers implement biosecurity measures on-farm and to be able to identify pests of concern.
Turning words into action on-farm
Now that the apple and pear industry has a plan, the priority actions that were identified during its development can be put into action. Some of the things on the to-do list are for industry organisations; others are for growers, who play a fundamental role in protecting their own livelihoods and the future of the apple and pear industry in Australia by using biosecurity measures on-farm.
Australian producers are, for the most part, in a good situation because they don’t have to deal with some of the nastier pests and diseases, and it’s worth the effort to keep it that way. Controlling endemic pests and weeds can also lead to savings.
Just being aware of the threats means that a pest or disease is more likely to be picked up early by a grower, giving us the best chance to contain it and hopefully eradicate it.
Using ‘clean’ planting material is a good way to prevent the entry of pests and diseases into a new orchard. When it comes to fire blight – which is number 21 on the national priority pest list – it’s better to prevent it in the first place. With few cost-effective treatments, the best option in the event of an incursion may be to remove susceptible plant material from infected properties and their surrounds in an attempt to get rid of it.
Fire blight is also spread by pollinating insects, so if infected material makes its way into Australia, the disease could spread very quickly.
Fire blight can affect a number of weeds and ornamental plants so working with neighbours to improve biosecurity within a region is essential. You can be doing everything right but if your neighbours aren’t, that’s a risk.
Signs informing visitors what is expected of them in terms of biosecurity have been well received by apple and pear growers in the past. As a grower you can make sure you’re reducing the chances of allowing in pests by also restricting entry to production areas and cleaning down vehicles and equipment.
These are just a few ways in which you can make a start on biosecurity. The Farm Biosecurity website has a number of tools to help you plan and implement biosecurity on-farm. There’s information about the six biosecurity ’essentials’, a planner to create a customised biosecurity plan for your farm, videos to give you ideas about what you can do, and a smartphone app to create a to-do list.
Request a copy of the Biosecurity Plan for the Apple and Pear Industry from APAL’s Technical Manager Angus Crawford
View the Farm Biosecurity Planner on the Farm Biosecurity website
Read other biosecurity articles.
Thank you to the industry experts and staff from the state governments of Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania, NSW, Western Australia and South Australia who contributed their time and knowledge to the project.