Plant test beefs up border security

June 20, 2018

Protecting our borders: the award winning plant virus test is a game changer for plant breeders

A plant testing kit that helps to strengthen Australia’s border security has won the prestigious Biosecurity Impact Award.

Dr Roberto Barrero, from the Centre for Comparative Genomics at Murdoch University, led a team at the Plant Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre to develop the award-winning plant diagnostic toolkit that accurately detects a range of viruses and viroids in a single test.

“Australia and New Zealand are at the forefront of plant biosecurity, thoroughly scrutinising plant imports at Post Entry Quarantine facilities,” Dr Barrero said.

“Biosecurity testing at the border is critical to prevent entry of exotic pests that could pose a threat to domestic industries and native biodiversity.

“Our new testing will enable plant pathologists and biosecurity officers at the border to make better and faster decisions about allowing imported plants into the country.”

Dr Barrero said the new toolkit was more comprehensive than current testing methods and reduces the testing time for imported genetic stocks from up to three years to less than 12 months.

“This new test will provide rapid and safe access to imported elite cultivars and breeding lines, which will help domestic plant industries to retain and gain access to high value markets nationally and internationally,” he said.

“The testing toolkit has already successfully been used to diagnose viruses in major horticultural crops including grapevines, citrus, strawberries, prunus and potato.”

Dr Mark Whattam, Director of the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, congratulated the researchers.

“I have spent most of my career detecting and preventing entry of exotic pathogens in imported plants and the ability to detect all viruses and viroids in a single test quickly and reliably is a real game changer for Australia’s plant industries,” Dr Whattam said.

“I feel very fortunate being involved in this project from inception to its current delivery and I look forward to seeing the adoption of this new tool to further protect our plant health status.”

The Biosecurity Impact Award was presented to the research team at Science Exchange 2018, and recognises a project making a measurable change to plant biosecurity by delivering research outcomes to end-users.

Researchers and end users from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, New Zealand Ministry of Primary Industries, Plant Food Research New Zealand and Murdoch University were involved in the development of the toolkit.


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