From 2018 – 2023, Australia’s plant industries joined forces to explore how a national, cross-industry plant pest surveillance program harmonised across many stakeholders, agencies, and programs might operate. Six project teams investigated state-of-the art technologies for components of surveillance, diagnostics and adoption of the data generated. Shakira Johnson reports on the outcomes of iMapPESTS: Sentinel Surveillance for Agriculture.

In a unique collaboration using the latest technologies, Australia’s agriculture and horticulture industries worked together to develop a national surveillance system capable of rapidly monitoring and reporting the presence of airborne pests and diseases for multiple agricultural sectors, including viticulture, grains, cotton, sugar, forestry and horticulture. The iMapPESTS: Sentinel Surveillance for Agriculture project has delivered a suite of new surveillance and diagnostics tools driven by industry needs following extensive research and development into a flexible, cost-effective system.

Originally, the program aimed to deliver a mobile, cross-industry surveillance network to monitor the presence of pests that threaten major agricultural sectors across Australia, with the aim of covering surveillance diagnostics and forecasting with producers, industry and government. Data would include timely and accurate information about pests in their region to assist with management decisions, reduce pest resistance and demonstrate pest-free status to export markets.

As the project progressed, it became evident that to meet the needs of Australian producers and plant surveillance knowledge/practice gaps, the work needed to pivot slightly. The project therefore pivoted to focus on the design, testing and validation of:

  • Advanced surveillance technologies, such as automated trapping and sampling for detecting and monitoring a wide range of established and exotic pests and diseases;
  • Fast, reliable and cost-effective means to detect and report pests and diseases, such as advanced molecular diagnostics.

The collaborative efforts of the six project teams in the iMapPESTS project was a proof-of-concept sentinel surveillance system for Australian agriculture that aimed to lay the foundations for a national, cross-industry surveillance system that can deliver actionable information to primary producers, industries, and governments on established, trade-sensitive and exotic pests and diseases.

This information should be used by stakeholders to guide the direction and intensity of scouting efforts and pest control actions. The system should also facilitate a rapid, co-ordinated response during incursions, including use in delimiting systems and proof-of-freedom claims.

Download the full report here

Or read Australian Grower Winter 2023 magazine online

The program (2017-2023) was supported by Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited, through funding from the Australia Government Department of Agriculture, Water the Environment as part of its Rural R&D for Profit Program and Grains Research & Development Corporation, Sugar Research Australia, Cotton Research & Development Corporation, Wine Australia, AgriFutures Australia, and Forest and Wood Products Australia.