Improving incursion response

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Improving incursion response

On average there are 30-40 new plant pest incursions each year[1] in Australia. Each incursion has the potential for economic impacts on broadacre and horticultural crops, forestry and the environment, and on the communities that rely on these industries. With increasing international trade and travel there is an ever-growing risk of pest incursions around the world.

There are over 40 pests on Australia’s National Priority Plant Pests list, where government investment and action is focused. While these pests are considered the ‘worst of the worst’, keep in mind that there are over 600 exotic plant pests that could impact the grains industry alone[2].

Xylella fastidiosa is enemy #1 on Australia’s National Priority Plant Pests list (Photo: Texas Plant Disease Diagnostic Lab).

Recent incursions of significance in Australia include: Khapra beetle (Trogoderma granarium), which was contained and eradicated; Russian wheat aphid (Diuraphis noxia), which is now considered endemic; an outbreak of Queensland fruit fly (Bactrocera tryoni) in Perth, Western Australia, which was contained and eradicated; Varroa mite (Varroa jacobsoni) in Queensland, also contained; Panama disease tropical race 4 in Queensland; and banana freckle affecting bananas in the Northern Territory – just to name a few.

These pest invasions show that effective planning for plant pest incursions is vital for containment, eradication and management.

Khapra beetle, one of the most serious pests of stored grain products, is not currently found in Australia and would cause serious trade disruption if it established here.

Pest incursion planning involves: monitoring and surveillance – ‘early warning’; diagnostic tools and expertise for identification; information systems that define the status of the pest; and specific reporting arrangements to ensure action to deal with new incursions is swift.[3]

If an incursion occurs, there is a chain of responsibility; the Australian Government is responsible for managing risks at national borders while the states and territories must work individually or together to deal with pest problems within the country.

The technical response plan used to respond to an emergency plant pest incident in Australia is called PLANTPLAN. This outlines the phases of an emergency response and, if an outbreak is declared, the affected stakeholders from government and industry are notified (those who are signatories to the Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed). If eradication is considered feasible then a Response Plan is prepared (See: What happens in a pest incursion, Plant Health Australia).

Research that improves incursion responses

PBCRC is supporting research with industry, government and universities to improve knowledge of past incursions and plant pests and ensure a more informed response. This will ultimately improve outcomes for all stakeholders, especially those involved in growing crops.

Research into incursion responses aims to improve the cost-effectiveness of responses, while minimising the social, economic and environmental impacts. Additionally, this research has the potential to reduce the probability of production losses for growers, reduce the response costs for industry and reduce the risk of access to markets being suspended or lost.

Incursion response research projects


With the benefit of hindsight: a bioeconomic analysis of past pest incursions (1033)

Investigating previous pest incursion case studies to analyse the most beneficial eradication and surveillance responses.   

Using historical incursion outcomes to predict the likelihood of eradication allowing for a fast and accurate response (1032)

Improving eradication response decision-making by providing online access to past eradication efforts through the Global Eradication and Response Database (GERDA).   

Extending biosecurity preparedness and surveillance strategies and developing a chemical supply framework for pest incursions (2013)

This project is assisting the grains industry with preparedness for biosecurity threats. The project has also developed a framework to manage pesticide supply following pest incursions, which will have industry better prepared in case of an incursion.



Economic analyses of gene deployment strategies for high priority exotic pests and chemical supply to manage pest incursions (1015)

This project will provide a sound economic and scientific basis for making decisions about investment in pre-emptive breeding for exotic plant pests, and collection of information on chemical supply to manage incursions.                     

Decision making for eradication and quarantine (2100)

This project is developing methods, protocols and software to improve the capacity to make scientifically robust decisions to improve quarantine limits and optimise eradication strategies.

Design and evaluation of targeted biosecurity surveillance systems (2110)

Developing methods for designing and evaluating statistically-based surveillance systems and strategies for high priority biosecurity threats.

Decision intelligence: determining pest natal origins (2111)

The objectives of this project are to determine the technological potential for biogeochemical detection in small insects.

On farm DNA surveillance for grape growers (2061)

This project is developing a cost-effective and non-invasive sampling protocol to accurately detect soil borne pests of grapevines. The protocol will be able to be used directly by grapevine growers, without third party assistance to establish areas of low/no pest prevalence for soil borne pests and to help prevent the spread of Phylloxera in Australia.

Managing myrtle rust and its impacts in Australia (2063)

Myrtle rust (eucalyptus/guava rust) caused by the fungus Puccinia psidii affects plants in the Myrtaceae family, which includes many Australian native plants. This project is developing a nationally standardised myrtle rust rating system for a range of myrtaceous species growing under different environmental conditions.

Understanding the role of alternative host plants in tomato potato psyllid and Liberibacter life cycle and ecology (2079)

This project is increasing the knowledge of the role that non-crop alternative host plants may play in the life cycle and ecology of the tomato potato psyllid and Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum (CLso).        


Mechanically transmitted DNA virus control of Botrytis (2126)

Researchers are testing the hypothesis that viruses which infect cosmopolitan fungi (mycoviruses) have the potential to be harnessed as biocontrol agents which could be used by biosecurity agencies as an alternative to current chemical control methods or host plant destruction, to control fungal pathogens.

Optimising surveillance protocols using unmanned aerial systems (2135)

New technologies for surveillance and monitoring organisms that threaten plant biosecurity.

Unmanned aerial vehicle (Photo: Kansas State University)



Advancing collaborative knowledge systems for plant biosecurity surveillance (4004)

This project has investigated the role that remote and regional communities play in the effective delivery of plant biosecurity surveillance in Australia.

Building resilience in indigenous communities through engagement – a focus on biosecurity threats (4041)

This project has created models of indigenous engagement to enhance the ability of indigenous communities, regulatory authorities and industries to better manage the impacts of biosecurity threats.

Collaborative planning and shared decision making amongst stakeholders in plant biosecurity risk management (4115)

Researchers are developing a collaborative planning and shared decision-making framework that will result in better and faster decisions to respond more quickly to biosecurity risks.



Network analysis of post-border pest spread (61049)

The aim of this PhD project is to develop a network model for a generic rust pathogen under two different types of networks to help biosecurity agencies and industry as a forward planning prioritisation process or for when real time decisions need to be made regarding interventions for the spread of an invasive species.

Myrtle rust in Australian ecosystems (62117)

In this PhD project a survey of 200 people was undertaken to gather information on infected species, locations, severity, control measures and opinions to determine if myrtle rust (Puccinia psidii) represents a threat to native plant communities in Australia.

Epidemiology, impact and management of myrtle rust in lemon myrtle plantations (62118)

This PhD project will increase the current knowledge of the epidemiology and disease cycle of myrtle rust (Puccinia psidii in lemon myrtle plantations.

Curtailing and managing exotic fungal spore incursion into Australia (62042)

This PhD research is improving the understanding of the different entry pathways of fungal pathogens to Australia.

Co-evolution of gall rusts and Acacia spp. in Australia (62081)

Over 150 specimens of U. tepperianum were examined from 35 different Acacia spp. and included in a phylogenetic analysis of four genes from ribosomal and mitochondrial DNA.

The co-evolution of wild rice and its pathogens, especially Pyricularia spp. (62082)

This PhD project will improve the understanding of rice diseases in Australia, particularly Pyricularia oryzae, which causes rice blast.

Psyllid microflora - Implications for Liberibacter disease surveillance and pest control (62116)

This PhD project will be the first to research the microflora of the native Australian eggplant psyllid, Acizzia solanicola, which will aid validation of diagnostic protocols for detection of Ca. Liberibacter in Australia. In addition, this project will provide significant insights into the role of Australian native insect microflora on the fitness and potential control of the psyllid species.


[2] Taylor-Hukins, R. et al, (2015), Exotic plant pests – a threat to the sustainability of Australia’s grains industry, 17th Australian Agronomy Conference,

[3] Pheloung, P. Contingency planning for plant pest incursions in Australia, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations,