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CRC27012: National Diagnostic Database

This project is developing a mix of digital technologies designed to provide the building blocks of future diagnostic information systems. The Plant Biosecurity Toolbox™ and the Biosecurity Bank are web-based tools which provide users with specific diagnostic information to assist them identify the plant pest or disease. The Plant Biosecurity Toolbox™ can be accessed through PaDIL* and hopefully in the future users will also be able to access the Biosecurity Bank through this portal.

In addition, a Remote Microscope Network allows species experts to view and identify specimens in real time via a microscope and internet connection. This tool facilitates access to experts both nationally and internationally to support fast and inexpensive diagnostics. Current nodes of the network include most states of Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia and some south-east Asian countries.

What is the biosecurity problem?

The frenetic increase in the pace of people movement and international trade puts added pressures on our borders and a greater need to quickly identify potential harmful pests and diseases. Through retirement of skilled diagnosticians and a low-level of uptake to study these disciplines, we are seeing a decline in our human capital. It is essential that alternative strategies are developed to support quick and accurate diagnostics in an increasingly resource poor environment.

The main outputs of this project are to:

  • develop a standard diagnostic information template in collaboration with staff involved in plant biosecurity diagnostics
  • audit diagnostic information relating to harmful pest and diseases to populate the template and identify gaps in diagnostic information, and 
  • provide a web-based portal to access diagnostic information.

Who will be the end-users of this research?

Users will range from inspectors in our ports and borders to field-based crop protection officers, to taxonomists and experts in labs. This may include farmers, consultants, policy makers, regulators or just simply members of the public. Users may be national or international. These tools engage a wide audience and provide information at a number levels – from taxonomy and general biology to risk analysis and detailed molecular tests.

What this means for future diagnostics

Viewed independently, the tools present the user with a simple pathway to solve a diagnostic problem and in so doing, perform the useful biosecurity function of pest identification. Wider access and use of the tools will be enhanced through the application of better digital technologies, such as personal digital assistants, wireless networks, portable remote microscopes, dedicated web portals and organised networks of facilities with agreed standards and processes.

Beyond this primary function, people interact with the tools to create an instantaneous log of pest specimens, their prevalence and locations which can then be picked up by analytical databases such as the Atlas of Living Australia that will aggregate and draw on these tools and data to provide a deeper understanding of trends. In this sense, these tools provide the materials for future heuristic models of analysis.








*PaDIL is a partnership between the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia, Plant Health Australia, Museum Victoria, Queensland University of Technology and the Cooperative Research Centre for National Plant Biosecurity.


Dr Gary Kong
Project Leader CRC27012: National Diagnostic Database

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January 2007 – December 2011
$1,013,428 (cash and in-kind support)