New initiatives to prevent pests

Wednesday, 07 June, 2017

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The NSW Government has confirmed it will continue its involvement in collaborative invasive species research and innovation under the new Centre for Invasive Species Solutions, the successor to the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre (IA CRC).

Over the past decade, the IA CRC’s national research collaboration has been delivering on its mandate to get new products and tools on farm and to enhance knowledge in the sector through research excellence. This has included the first new complementary feral predator toxin in 50 years being available, and a new strain of rabbit calicivirus released nationally with community involvement at over 550 sites around Australia.

In its response to the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) review of pest animal management, the NSW Government has affirmed that it will continue to fully support a national approach to enhancing research opportunities and outcomes, understanding the leverage that can occur from collaborative research. This collaboration with the new invasive species research centre has been welcomed by IA CRC CEO Andreas Glanznig.

“It is fantastic to see open support from the NSW Government for a national and collaborative approach to invasive species research and innovation, and we look forward to welcoming them to the new centre,” Glanznig said.

The NSW Government also supports a national approach to expanding the PestSmart and FeralScan web portals, which are two of the IA CRC community engagement digital resources. The government also hopes to build on research to develop early detection and foresight capability, and understands the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions is likely to have a strong focus on detection and prevention strategies.

The news comes just two weeks after the Plant Biosecurity CRC’s Pestpoint software — which harnesses the power of social media to help identify crop pests — won a 2017 Award for Excellence in Innovation at Collaborate | Innovate 2017, the CRC Association’s annual conference.

As explained by plant pathologist Dr Gary Kong, leader of the Pestpoint project, “Time is of the essence when you’re looking at possible crop damage or, worse still, a potentially serious pest invasion.

“Distance, and a shortage of experts, means many farmers in remote areas or developing countries find it difficult to quickly identify plant pests and diseases.

“People using mobile devices and inexpensive digital microscopes can use Pestpoint to draw on the collective expertise of local, regional, national or international networks to provide a much faster pest identification, enabling immediate steps to be taken to reduce the impact.”

People using Pestpoint can create their own private group and use their smartphone or mobile device to collect and record signs of crop pests within the Pestpoint app. They can share images or video so fellow members or taxonomic experts can assist with identification. Pestpoint documents this process and saves pest records in a searchable database that can be exported as reports.

“It’s a low-cost, low-tech resource that empowers farmers to act quickly to get on top of the problem, no matter where they are in the world,” said Dr Kong.

“Importantly, it also provides a secure web space so online communities can create a private network where members can identify crop pests and diseases at a level of privacy and security that suits their requirements.”

Pestpoint is now in pre-commercial use in Australia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos PDR and Indonesia. It will soon be implemented in the Pacific, including New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands.

Image credit: © Bras

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