Plants are the building blocks of life, providing 80 percent of the food we eat and 98 percent of the oxygen we breathe. Therefore, it is essential we protect plants in our agriculture industry, food production and environment from exotic pests and diseases with good biosecurity measures.

Globally an estimated 20-40% of crops are lost annually due to damage caused by new and established pests and diseases.

In Australia we experience on average 40 new plant pest incursions per year. For the broadacre and horticultural crop industries, eradication costs could reach $29.3 billion if one of the 42 national priority plant pests enters and establishes in Australia.

To raise global awareness and take action to improve plant health, protect biodiversity and the environment, boost economic development, and build a better future, the United Nations (UN) declared 12 May as the International Day of Plant Health (IDPH).

Globally, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates agricultural production needs to rise by 60 per cent by 2050 to feed a larger and generally wealthier population. Considering that 40 percent of global food crops are lost to pests and diseases, this is an enormous task.

“Australia has a world class biosecurity system, but as long as international trade and people movement occurs, there will always be the risk that new plant pests will enter the country,” said Sarah Corcoran, CEO of Plant Health Australia (PHA).

As the trusted national coordinator of the plant biosecurity system in Australia PHA brings together government and industry to build a strong and resilient plant biosecurity system.

“Our multi-layered biosecurity systems safeguards Australia’s food security and food safety, while good on-farm biosecurity practices protect our farmers’ productivity and make good business sense,” said Ms Corcoran.

The success of our biosecurity system relies on shared responsibility for shared benefit. Partnerships are one of PHA’s cornerstones and we recognise the value of collaboration between our Members, the supply chain, and the science and technology community. PHA’s partnership projects are applied, relevant, and meaningful, and some of these include:

  • CitrusWatch is a collaboration between PHA, Citrus Australia, the Northern Territory Department of Industry Tourism and Trade, and Cesar Australia, the program is a national citrus biosecurity and surveillance program that extends across commercial production zones, to high-density, urban and peri-urban regions.
  • Nationally Integrated Surveillance System for Plant Pests (NISSPP) is being led by PHA to investigate requirements for the development of a NISSP and deliver a framework to address future plant pest surveillance needs.
  • Bee Pest Blitz is an annual campaign coordinated by PHA calling on all Australian beekeepers to inspect their hives for high priority pests such as varroa and tropilaelaps mites during April.
  • Plant Surveillance Network Australasia-Pacific (PSNAP) is coordinated by PHA, and enables members to communicate on plant pest surveillance and acts as a coordination point for surveillance professionals and practitioners to strengthen surveillance capacity and capability across Australia, New Zealand and the nearby region.
  • National Plant Biosecurity Diagnostic Network (NPBDN) is coordinated by PHA, and supports members in their profession by helping to contribute to a sustainable plant diagnostic system. Their activities enable the efficient and effective diagnosis of plant pests by Australian diagnosticians.
  • Pest and Disease Image Library (PaDIL) is an online scientific identification tool hosted by PHA, containing high-quality diagnostic images and information tools designed to assist agronomists, biosecurity officers, diagnosticians and researchers both in Australia and overseas.
  • National Biosecurity Training Hub is hosted by PHA and is a centralised coordinated platform that offers national visibility and accessibility of biosecurity-related online training, across government and industry, in a single location.

“Healthy plants constitute the foundation of all life on earth. We all have to work together to end hunger, reduce poverty, protect biodiversity and the environment, and boost economic development,” said Ms Corcoran.

For more information visit idph.com.au and fao.org/plant-health-day/en.