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The objective of CRC40035 was to review the process of moving emergency plant pest (EPP) samples during incursion, determine critical control points to manage risks and make recommendations for R&D. This review does not include samples collected by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS). Management of these was being reviewed internally.

There are two main groups of plant related diagnostic samples that could contain EPPs:

  • Biosecurity samples generated by surveillance, emergency response, eradication and containment programs. 
  • Routine samples collected by farm consultants and primary producers to facilitate efficient farm management and access international markets.

Sample types vary widely and include herbaceous and woody plants, fruit, hay, seed, insects and soil. Each type of sample has specific packaging requirements for it to survive transport intact and arrive in good diagnostic condition.

Research outcomes

Australia Post currently only require packaging for plant diagnostic samples to comply with standard parcel post, although restricted samples need to conform to the respective State Quarantine regulations and be accompanied by Plant Health Certificates (Post Guide, Parcels within Australia, 2005). The requirements for parcel post is expressed in outcome terms e.g. must not leak etc, but do not have minimum technical specifications.

Better guidelines should be developed for the different types of plant, insect and soil samples to minimise the risk of substandard packaging being used. The recommended packaging must be readily available and reasonably priced if it is to be widely adopted.

New standards should be recorded in PlantPlan and updated as required. Incursion, eradication and containment programs are obliged to use the protocols in PlantPlan. PlantPlan is also readily accessible by diagnostic laboratories. User friendly brochures could be developed for primary producers and consultants, citing PlantPlan as the reference, and promoting biosecurity in the process.

Setting packaging standards too high will discourage people from sending samples. There are significant benefits to be achieved by encouraging people to send samples to approved laboratories; these include increasing the chance of early detection of EPPs and improved farm efficiency. By comparison, the risk they pose to spreading EPPs is very low, especially when compared to other means of dispersal.

Research implications

The CRCNPB is in a unique position to make a useful contribution to developing practical packaging standards and streamlining delivery of plant diagnostic samples. The following areas need to be addressed:

  • The decision to include plant infectious agents in AS 4834 was made with limited industry consultation and needs to be reviewed. Using Category A for samples that may contain EPPs will delay setup times and increase the cost of the incursion, eradication and containment programs, and associated research programs. The current definitions also encompass routine samples and this is likely to have an adverse impact on demand.
    • If AS 4834 standards are endorsed, then suitable packaging for each sample type needs to be identified and made available in regional areas. 
    • If AS 4834 is considered excessive, then the standard will need to be revised, and new standards developed based on readily available components. These standards could be included in PlantPlan or developed as new categories in AS 4834.
  • Contingency plans should be reviewed to ensure they include detailed packaging specifications and appropriate suppliers.
  • To simplify the process of sending samples, endorsement should be sought from State Quarantine Authorities to remove the requirement for Plant Health Certificates or Written Approval notices to accompany samples sent in recommended packaging to approved laboratories. This will encourage agricultural consultants and producers to submit more diagnostic samples, and increase the chance of early detection of EPP incursions and farming efficiency.


  • Australian and Australian/New Zealand Standards
  • Australian Dangerous Goods Code (ADG Code)
  • Department of Health and Ageing
  • Australia Post Guides
  • Department of Transport and Regional Services
  • Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF)
  • Biosecurity Australia; Plant Biosecurity
  • Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS)
  • Plant Health Australia
  • NSW Department of Primary Industries
  • Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries; Biosecurity
  • Grow Help Australia
  • Primary Industries and Resources South Australia
  • Department of Primary Industries and Water; Biosecurity, Tasmania
  • Department of Primary Industries, Victoria; Biosecurity Victoria
  • Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia
  • Western Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (WAQIS)


November 2006 - June 2007


Biosecurity researchers aid the surveillance of exotic disease

CRC researchers were recently deployed to provide scientific surveillance expertise after an incursion of Myrtle rust on the New South Wales Central Coast.

Media Release: 30 July 2010

Rapid response is crucial to minimising the cost of an incursion of an invading pest/disease organism. An essential part of a rapid response is an effective surveillance strategy, and central to effective surveillance is knowing where to look. This requires a rapid assessment of the organism potential to spread in the environment where it has been found. The outcome of this project will help managers to quickly marshal all available biological information to forecast spread of a new pest or disease.

Research outcomes:

This project developed a framework that will improve our ability to successfully respond to new incursions of emergency plant pests. Spread predictions are made by integrating information provided by experts into a General Model of Biological Invasion (GMBI). We have shown that the framework is general enough to characterise, simulate and make reasonable predictions for a wide range of organisms (including vertebrate and invertebrate animals, plants, fungal and bacterial pathogens, and even viruses spread by insect vectors) in a wide range of landscapes (including urban, peri-urban, rural and natural environments). 

Research implications:

The General Model of Biological Invasions (GMBI) framework developed in this project provides a valuable tool for managing organisms that are known to be high risk, that have just arrived and that need to be dealt with as quickly and effectively as possible.


Dr Michael Renton
Project Leader CRC10124: Forecasting Spread for Rapid Response
Phone: 08 6488 1959

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Feb 2009 – May 2012
$1,142,389 (cash and in-kind support)



This project will develop new policies and strategies to improve the management of emergency plant pest incursions. It will increase community and indigenous participation to identify, prevent and manage emergency plant pest incursions, particularly in Australia's northern border regions.

A pilot study was conducted in 2007 which established:

1. A draft community participation model

The model incorporates sound practice in developing sustainable ways for communities in Eastern Indonesia and Australia to identify and manage the pests and diseases affecting the quality and quantity of crops and food supplies. This work has been internationally peer reviewed and is currently the subject of a joint partnership publication of 2 international journals.

2. Research training needs

A need to strengthen the research training capacity and accompanying training accreditation for the community management of biosecurity in both countries. A Research Award Framework was developed and subsequently endorsed by the Director General of Higher Education for Indonesia, and a pilot of the Award initiated at the Universitas Mahasaraswati, Denpasar.

What is the biosecurity problem?

Australia's proximity to South East Asia places pressure on our tropical north in terms of plant biosecurity. Indigenous communities have an essential role in managing emergency plant pest incursions, and their support is recognised under AQIS's Northern Australian Quarantine Strategy (NAQS). While NAQS undertake activities in collaboration with neighbouring countries' governments, there is an opportunity to work more proactively with Indigenous communities in developing risk mitigation strategies.

The main outputs of this project are to:

  • implement proactive management of plant pests and diseases through the development of a community-based management system in Australia and Indonesia is best achieved through the development of systems to produce models of leadership training for those involved at central, regional and community levels to make new decentralisation policy work for the poor. It will do this through action research in Northern Australia and the Greater Papua, West Timor (Nusa Tengara Timur NTT) and other regions which in turn will lead to leadership capacity building and implementation of innovative breakthrough activities.
  • develop, trial, evaluate and refinement of the 2007 research outcomes (the pilot project) in three regions of Eastern Indonesia and Australia: (a) The Greater Papua, (b) Nusa Tengara Timur (NTT) and (c) remote communities in Northern Australia.
  • provide cross-cutting research across the whole of Northern Australia and Eastern Indonesia (Nusa Tengarra, NTT) into the facilitation of policy/regional/community connections, and the role of women in facilitating biosecurity outcomes.

Who will be the end-users of this research?

  • End-users
  • Government, NGO's and international agencies such as ACIAR and AusAid  
  • Beneficiaries
  • Australian government agencies such as DAFF (AQIS)
  • Key stakeholders, and
  • Local communities and their leadership in Eastern Indonesia and Northern Australia; Australian government involved in policy establishment (DAFF, DFAT).


Prof Ian Falk
Project Leader CRC40049: A community based model to manage emergency plant pests (phase one)

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February 2008 – 2012
$1,431,310 (cash and in-kind contributions)