AUSTRALIA – The Australian government through a collaborative effort has launched a program called CitrusWatch to protect the Australian citrus industry against pathogens and pests.

The program aims to provide expanded surveillance, industry training, new risk assessment and modelling, and higher levels of governance and collaboration.

Funded by Hort Innovation through various levies and with contributions from the Australian government, the five-year program is designed to provide surveillance against diseases such as Asian citrus psyllid and huánglóngbìng, which have the potential for widespread disruptions if outbreaks occur.

Huánglóngbìng (HLB), also called citrus greening, has devastating effects on citrus production. After huánglóngbìng was detected in Florida in 2005, production decreased by 74 per cent.

Hort Innovation is the grower-owned, not-for-profit research and development corporation for Australia’s horticulture industry.

CitrusWatch will be led by Plant Health Australia, the national coordinator of the government–industry partnership for plant biosecurity, and its activities coordinated by Citrus Australia, the recognized peak industry body representing the nation’s commercial citrus growers.

The Northern Territory Department of Industry Tourism (NT DITT) and trade and research group Cesar Australia, will provide surveillance, communication and research support.

It is hoped that through early detection of any infection that disease incursions will be quickly dealt with. The program will connect existing biosecurity agencies in order to increase its power of detection.

Australia’s strict biosecurity laws mean that previous outbreaks of diseases such as citrus canker have been swiftly dealt with but a sufficiently large outbreak of this sort of disease could cause immense damage to the industry.

CitrusWatch’s purview will include surveillance of the commercial citrus industry but also of urban areas and their surrounds.

This will mean that there is a widespread detection network that can react to emerging problems. An infection that is allowed to spread through the country would have the potential to cost millions of dollars.

Early Pest detection

The program aims to deploy 1000 sticky traps each year across urban residential areas and commercial citrus orchards to aid in early detection of Asian citrus psyllid, as well as other high priority threats, such as African citrus psyllid and glassy winged sharpshooter (Homolodisca vitripennis), vector of the pathogen Xylella fastidiosa.

While early pest detection is the major goal of the program, these surveillance activities have the added benefit of increasing communication and awareness and adding to an industry dataset that can provide ‘evidence of absence’, since it’s collecting valuable data, such as location, trapping dates, and host plants.

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