Two biosecurity planning documents targeting pests of avocado crops were released in early September, boosting protection against exotic pests for Australian avocado production. The Industry Biosecurity Plan for the Avocado Industry and the Orchard Biosecurity Manual for the Avocado Industry were launched at the VII World Avocado Congress in Cairns.
The biosecurity planning documents are based on a risk analysis which identified specific insects, diseases and fungal infections that could damage avocado crops should they get into Australian orchards. The analysis was coordinated by Avocados Australia, Plant Health Australia (PHA) and Biosecurity Queensland bringing together key researchers working on avocados in Australia.
The high priority pests identified include avocado thrips which are causing large economic losses in Californian avocado orchards, avocado seed weevils which are a major pest in Central America, and laurel wilt which is emerging as a significant pest of avocados in the US.
Being forewarned is forearmed, according to Antony Allen, CEO of Avocados Australia. “This review of possible threats to Australian avocado orchards shows us what we need to guard against,” he said.
The new industry biosecurity plan lists all the potential high risk pests as well as identifying the steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of them coming into the country and spreading throughout orchards. It means we have an agreed plan based on the latest scientific advice and we can spring into action should any of these nasty pests be found here.”
Apart from potential losses to individual growers, the avocado industry is worth around $180 million at the farm gate each year and sustains many rural communities, so there is much to protect.
Around 1,000 growers produce avocados in Australia, with 70 per cent grown in Queensland. The orchard biosecurity manual has been written for these producers, according to PHA Executive Director and CEO, Greg Fraser.
“The main findings from the industry biosecurity plan have been translated into a manual for growers, showing them what exotic pests to look out for, and recommending actions that all growers should be taking as a matter of course to reduce the risk on their properties,” he said.
Practices that the manual recommends include cleaning vehicles and equipment, ensuring the hygiene of people moving on and off a property, and collecting all plant waste and disposing of it away from nursery and orchard areas and water sources. “Biosecurity is everybody’s business” says Greg Fraser, “and needs to be a priority for all orchards.”
For more information on the industry biosecurity plan, visit the Plant Health Australia website.