Thursday, 31 July 2014

Biosecurity: international dimensions, threats and strategies

The topic of ‘Biosecurity: international dimensions, threats and strategies’ was addressed by ACIAR’s CEO Dr Nick Austin at a panel discussion hosted by the Rural Press Club of Victoria on 18 July 2014. In his presentation Dr Austin spoke about some of the significant contributions ACIAR-funded research has made to address issues of biosecurity internationally and in Australia. He also announced the funding of a new initiative to build plant biosecurity skills in eastern Africa. ACIAR produced a brochure highlighting the contribution of ACIAR partnerships with Victorian research agencies for the event.

A farmer field school in Fiji

Plant, animal and aquatic pests and diseases have a significant impact on agricultural production in Australia and in our partner countries. ACIAR’s work in biosecurity over the past 30 years has contributed to addressing both existing biosecurity issues and threats to biosecurity, which are growing in importance as international travel and trade expands.

ACIAR research is helping to improve biosecurity capacity in two main ways. First, by reducing risks of exotic pests and diseases entering countries, including Australia, through improving biosecurity practices. Secondly, it is improving capacity for responding to incursion, through providing researchers with enhanced knowledge of, and hands-on experience with, exotic pests and diseases. Here is a snapshot of some of ACIAR’s work in biosecurity:



Testing ducks for the highly pathogenic bird flu H5N1 in Indonesia
ACIAR-funded research in animal biosecurity is improving our understanding and management of risks associated with livestock movement, and the biology and behaviour of pest and disease organisms (pathogens).  It is also enabling strategies for effective pest/disease surveillance, prevention and control to be developed and implemented. ACIAR is a long-term supporter of research partnerships that address both endemic and epidemic diseases, including exotic diseases of high importance to Australia, such as foot-and-mouth disease, classical swine fever and highly pathogenic avian influenza (‘bird flu’).

Vaccinating for foot and mouth disease Lao PDR
In the Mekong, animals are frequently traded across borders and this movement of livestock (and potentially pests and pathogens they carry) poses a significant challenge to biosecurity. To build regional capacity to improve animal biosecurity, ACIAR brought together researchers from six Mekong countries to examine research achievements, identify future research priorities, and to strengthen biosecurity linkages within the region. Read more in Animal biosecurity in the Mekong: future directions for research and development and Cattle health, production and trade in Cambodia.

In Indonesia, an recent ACIAR research project developed a niche market for ‘healthy farm’ eggs and chicken meat produced on farms that implemented appropriate biosecurity activities. The aim of this project was to test whether developing market opportunities could provide incentives for all chain participants to produce and market these healthy farm products. If taken up on a larger scale, improving poultry health and on-farm biosecurity will likely bring broader biosecurity benefits, reducing disease risks in Indonesia and also its near neighbours.  Read more on our blog and view a short film.


In fisheries research, ACIAR has supported studies in PNG on invasive fish species that pose a threat to aquatic biodiversity and also the livelihoods of people who rely on fishing native species. Species of particular concern to Australia include walking catfish, climbing perch and snakeheads, which originate from South-East Asia and have air-breathing organs that allow them to survive out of water for several days. There is a risk that invasive species such as these could spread from southern PNG across Torres Strait and become established in northern Australia.

Other examples of animal biosecurity research:
• foot-and-mouth disease and haemorrhagic septicaemia research in Lao PDR and Cambodia (projects AH/2005/086, AH/2006/159)
• rabies surveillance, prevention and control in Indonesia, Timor-Leste and Papua New Guinea (PNG) (AH/2006/166)
• classical swine fever in Indonesia (AH/2006/156
• avian influenza in Indonesia (AH/2010/039, AH/2010/039).


ACIAR has been funding fruit-fly research in horticulture for several decades. A 2008 study reviewed 17 fruit-fly projects estimated the net present value of all benefits at $208 million, a return on investment of over 5:1.

Biosecurity testing systems in Thailand
In Lao PDR, Cambodia and Thailand ACIAR projects have been building research capacity, diagnostic frameworks and organisational structures required to identify and manage plant health issues. This work includes development of a remote microscopy diagnostic network, and a pest/disease survey system based on smartphone technologies. Australia is providing access to plant pathology specialists and online databases for accessing and uploading information, enabling sharing of information about pests and diseases of regional importance.

In Pacific Island countries, an ACIAR project has been looking at trade-friendly alternative methods for disinfesting a broad range of commodities, including taro and ornamental plants, for example using hot-water treatment in place of chemicals to enable more trade opportunities to be fulfilled.

In eastern Africa, ACIAR has just announced a new initiative of the Australian International Food Security Research Centre to help strengthen skills in plant biosecurity. The training initiative will encompass short-term placements of African biosecurity specialists in relevant Australian agencies, plant biosecurity workshops in Africa, a mentoring system for African participants and funding assistance for developing biosecurity action plans at national and regional level. It will help address significant regional plant pest and disease issues and facilitate intra-regional trade.

With over seven million hectares of eucalypt and acacia plantations in South-East Asia, pests such as eucalyptus gall wasp are causing major problems. A new ACIAR project in Mekong countries is researching biocontrol options for gall wasp, utilising natural parasitoids from Australia to address this pest.

Australian and Indonesia scientists working on cocoa
Other examples of plant biosecurity research:
• cocoa pests & diseases Indonesia & PNG
• citrus greening in Bhutan
• citrus pests & diseases in Indonesia (e.g. citrus greening & fruit fly)
• mangoes in Pakistan (e.g. mango malformation & mango sudden death HORT/2010/006,
• wheat stem rust in India CIM/2007/084
• lentils and pea in Bangladesh (rust and Stemphylium foliar diseases CIM/2009/038
• ginger in Fiji and Australia  (soil pathogens, PC/2009/049)
• pests and diseases of Solonaceae vegetables in Cambodia and Australia

• sugarcane in Indonesia HORT/2006/147.

1 comment:

  1. It's interesting to read that the ROI for research into fruit-fly is ONLY $206 million. I would've thought that number would be much higher considering the damage that could be done if any outbreak did occur in main fruit growing regions!


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