%0 Generic %D 2009 %T Grains Post Entry Quarantine – A review %A Zheng, L %A Freeman, A %A Clove, G %A Thomas, J %A Davis, K %A Whattam, M %A Rodoni, B %X

The Australian grains industry, which is valued at an estimated $23 billion per annum, is free of many of the major pests, diseases and weeds that are present in other countries. To maintain the pest-free status of this industry and ensure the competitiveness of Australian grains on a global scale, quarantine activities have been implemented at the border and post-border by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) to intercept, mitigate and manage the potential threats of pest and pathogen introduction. These quarantine activities are placed under high demand due to the increase in human population, increasingly intensive agriculture and the increase in global movement of genetic materials.

Currently, over 2,000 seed lines, 500 horticultural cultivars, 500 high risk and 70,000 medium risk ornamental plant lines/cultivars are imported through AQIS on an annual basis. It is estimated that 23 tonnes of wheat germplasm is shipped globally each year as industry demands rapid access to new germplasm to enable global competitiveness.

The current screening and identification of most emergency plant pests (EPPs) on grains in Post-Entry Plant Quarantine (PEPQ) is largely based on visual inspections, which are inadequate when the pest and/or pathogen is present in low levels and/or cause symptomless infections (i.e. seed transmitted diseases). The uncertainty about pests and pathogens associated with many species of imported plants, particularly ornamentals further compounds the problem. There is a critical need for the development of more advanced diagnostic tests that are sensitive, efficient and reliable.

The Cooperative Research Centre for National Plant Biosecurity Post Entry Quarantine (PEQ) Diagnostics project is a collaborative project between Victoria Department of Primary Industries (DPI), Queensland Primary Industries and Fisheries, the New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) and the New Zealand Better Border Biosecurity (B3) program. The PEQ project was commissioned to address the current gaps in diagnostic technologies employed by AQIS to better protect Australia’s plant industries and to develop novel strategies for the detection of plant pest groups and genera.

Research in phase I of the project produced a generic diagnostic test that can reliably detect all members within a group of viruses (the potyvirus genus) and work is underway to apply the strategy to 14 additional virus genera over the next three years. Once validated, assays produced by the research program will be able to detect over 40% of all known plant virus species. This capability is especially important in PEPQ due to the large number of viruses that are tested for and the risk of imported plant material containing undescribed virus species. It is envisioned that this technology will assist plant biosecurity to improve quarantine and management of potential EPPs that threaten the Australian grains industries.