Encouraging bio-research

By Country News

A $27million investment in research, development and extension projects is helping to encourage collaboration and investment in plant biosecurity research.

The Plant Biosecurity Research Initiative, a coalition of seven agriculture bodies, is focusing on safeguarding and managing threats to the combined $30billion per annum industries of horticulture, wine, broadacre and forestry.

PBRI program director Dr Jo Luck said pest, disease and weed threats to Australia’s plant production systems could have a catastrophic effect on Australian farm businesses, employees and the surrounding regional communities.

‘‘Established to support cross-sectoral RD&E, the PBRI has formed new collaborations across seven plant industry research and development corporations, Plant Health Australia and the Department for Agriculture and Water Resources,’’ she said.

‘‘We have seven major projects under way delivered through co-investment from state-based primary industry agencies, CSIRO and Australian universities. A further five projects valued at over $21million is currently under consideration.’’

The current projects include a leadership project assessing ways to co-ordinate research, development and extension across sectors, and a national cross-industry surveillance project to monitor and report on the presence of airborne pests and diseases affecting horticulture, grains, wine and forest plantations.

Other projects include protecting horticulture and wine industries from Xylella — an exotic bacterium that threatens more than 350 commercial, ornamental and native plant species in Australia — as well as improving plant industries’ access to new genetics through faster and more accurate biosecurity screening using Next Generation Sequencing, and a review of the biosecurity plan and manual for the viticulture industry including wine and table grapes.

A further $21.7million of RD&E is being considered in areas including detection methods for brown marmorated stink bug, understanding the potential of native insects to transmit Xylella if it was introduced into Australia, boosting national diagnostic capacity for plant production industries, and business continuity for farmers affected by emergency plant pest incursions.