In May 2019, Cesar and AUSVEG travelled to Torres Strait and Cape York Peninsula to undertake research and extension activities focusing on control, eradication and preparedness for the vegetable leafminer (VLM).

Since 2008, the VLM has been moving down the Torres Strait islands and in 2015, the pest was detected on Cape York Peninsula in northern Queensland. The project was developed in recognition of the impact that VLM could have on the vegetable, nursery and melon industries were it to move into production regions.

The biosecurity strategy’s key responsibility is to provide early detection of target exotic plant pests, diseases and weeds that may affect Australia’s national plant and animal health status and trade in agricultural products and environmental amenity.

In addition to this work, specific activities in Torres Strait include performing biosecurity functions to manage risks in accordance with applicable biosecurity regulations and deliver surveillance and response measures under the Exotic Fruit Fly in Torres Strait Response Plan.

Through MT16004, the Department of Agriculture’s Northern Australia Quarantine Strategy (NAQS) has been instrumental in working with Cesar and the University of Melbourne to develop survey guidelines and rapid genetic diagnostics for VLM, which will assist industry in preparation for this horticultural pest. It is important to quickly detect VLM if it spreads to a new area. Our research team is measuring survey efforts for VLM in Torres Strait so that we can provide advice to growers about management strategies.

The research undertaken in Torres Strait will significantly assist vegetable, nursery and melon growers in preparation for VLM as it will give them guidelines for surveillance and new options for diagnostics. The surveillance and DNA diagnostics work is forming the core of surveillance toolkits supporting industry, government, and gardeners, which are currently under development. They will bring together statistically-based recommendations for survey technique, guidelines for sample collection and minimum standards for data recording.

These toolkits will be available to industry at the conclusion of the project in 2020, but you can view a draft of our VLM survey guide for growers on the AUSVEG website.

This article first appeared in the July/August edition of Vegetables Australia, the leading magazine for the Australian vegetable industry. If you’d like to subscribe to receive a new edition of Vegetables Australia in your mailbox, use our online subscription form!

This project has been funded by Hort Innovation using the vegetable, nursery and melon research and development levies and contributions from the Australian Government.