Providing practical information to help you protect your farm from biosecurity risks

Summerfruit ‘bible’ protects sweet things

August 4, 2011

Summerfruit-manual-coverGrowers of summerfruit will benefit from the release of two new documents developed by Plant Health Australia (PHA) and Summerfruit Australia Ltd (SAL), which focus on biosecurity for protection of the industry.

The Industry Biosecurity Plan for the Summerfruit Industry is a review of biosecurity threats, current practices and future biosecurity needs for the summerfruit industry. The Orchard Biosecurity Manual for the Summerfruit Industry translates the findings from the industry level plan into plain and practical advice for growers on how to best protect their orchards and livelihoods.

Both reports were funded by Horticulture Australia Ltd and were released at the SAL Annual General Meeting in Swan Hill, Victoria.

The summerfruit industry biosecurity plan was developed following an extensive review by industry, government and other relevant stakeholders of the pests and diseases overseas that are likely to survive, spread and establish should they be introduced into Australia.

These include Plum pox virus (also known as Sharka) and the Oriental fruit fly complex, which includes three types of fruit flies currently found in Asia, Papua New Guinea, the Pacific and South America. Any of these pests would have serious consequences should they enter and become established in Australia, potentially decimating summerfruit yields and certainly increasing the complexity of crop production.

In addition to identifying the threats to summerfruit, the industry biosecurity plan identifies the national systems that reduce the chance of pests breaching our borders or minimise the impact if a pest incursion occurs.

John Moore, CEO of SAL, says that the development of these two biosecurity documents provides greater protection for individual growers and the industry as a whole.

“Through this pre-emptive planning process we have boosted the summerfruit industry’s capacity to deal with the threat of new pests,” he said.

“These documents help us identify and prioritise what we need to do to prepare against new summerfruit pest incursions. SAL has undertaken this biosecurity planning on behalf of its member states and orchardists from around Australia to protect our high value summerfruit and maintain a viable industry.”

And it is a high value industry, worth $300 million per annum at the farm gate. Australian summerfruit are highly prized in many export markets because our warm climate and hot, dry summers promote sweeter, juicier fruit. Production has risen by approximately 25% over the last decade to over 100,000 tonnes per annum produced by about 1,200 growers.

But this could be put at risk by the introduction and establishment of the high priority pests that the industry biosecurity plan has identified. That, according to Greg Fraser, CEO at Plant Health Australia, is where the orchard biosecurity manual comes in. While Australia has a world class quarantine system, the sheer volume of trade and movement of people, as well as the ability of pests to move from neighbouring countries in wind and rain, means that the threat of pest incursions is real.

“All growers play an important role in protecting their own farm and their industry from biosecurity threats,” he said.

“The orchard manual contains pictures of the seven high priority pests and the damage they cause so that growers can keep a look out. We recommend regular pest surveillance – it gives us the chance to detect any unusual pests or symptoms early enough to stop them gaining a foothold in Australia and spreading through summerfruit growing areas.”

Should anything unusual be found in the orchard, producers are urged to report it immediately to the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline. The toll free number is 1800 084 881 nationally.