Trouble on the move
It’s easy to unwittingly spread pests and diseases by moving plants or animals across borders. TINO CARNEVALE explains what you need to know
How to avoid spreading plant and animal pests and diseases interstate
Last summer, fruit fly was discovered in my island state of Tasmania. It was the first time we had seen this notoriously destructive species on our shores and it was like a nightmare coming true. You see, I wear a few hats but most of my time is spent managing an orchard.
I have skin in this game so the subject is one of great importance to me.
Australia has a history of importing problems for our environment and agricultural sector – think gorse and cane toads. Even while fighting to control them, you have to admire the tenacity of some of these creatures.
Once pests find their way into the country, we need to do everything possible to stop them spreading beyond the affected area. Customs and quarantine checks provide great protection, but I think our best line of defence against incursions of new pest and disease species into our country is a well-educated and proactive population. Pests can easily hitch a ride on planes, trains, automobiles, boats and humans, and we all need to follow the rules to prevent them spreading.
As we head into summer, lots of people are on the move, doing road trips around the country in cars and caravans, often with their dog in tow, and it’s tempting to take home plants for the garden. If you’re travelling across borders and into other regions, be aware that bringing home a plant might also mean that you’re transporting serious pests or diseases.
Accidently introducing an unwanted pest or disease into your garden through a bag of manure, a plant in a pot or even a bit of mud on your shoes comes with a special type of emotional baggage, knowing the effort required to control it and the losses in crops you may have to endure. Now, that is just in your garden – imagine this on a larger scale, say on a farm or even worse, a whole country.
It’s important to take time to check if your plant or package is an issue before ordering online or setting out on long-haul trips. Most states and territories have simple guidelines and I reckon it’s better to know what we’re dealing with rather than being caught out or disappointed.
The impact of carelessness on our environment often has calamitous results. It increases farmers’ reliance on chemical controls, costing them money, and can have a disastrous effect on plants, crops and ecosystems. As a gardener, I beg you to take the effort, and as a farmer, and on behalf of other farmers, I say thank you.
Many pests and diseases affect the health of plants to varying degrees, but three stand out as posing serious risks to plant production in Australia, for home gardeners and commercial growers.
Fruit fly Queensland fruit fly (Qfly) has a devastating effect on fruit and some vegetable crops. Females lay eggs in soft fruit and larvae feed on the inside, while the fruit can look healthy from the outside.
Qfly has been in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and the Northern Territory for some time, and last summer it was also found in Tasmania. Growers in Western Australia have to contend with the exotic Mediterranean fruit fly (Medfly), which is also a serious pest.
You can help stop the spread of fruit fly by not carrying restricted foods across
Accidently introducing an unwanted pest or disease into your garden through a bag of manure, a plant in a pot or even a bit of mud on your shoes comes with a special type of emotional baggage, knowing the e ort required to control it.
borders. Anyone who has been through a port in Tasmania will have been met by one of our canine ambassadors and, while they are very cute, they do a serious job. Either eat the food before you reach the border or bin it. Quarantine bins are at domestic airports, ferry terminals and state and quarantine zone borders.
Tomato potato psyllid Western Australia is dealing with damage caused by the exotic tomato potato psyllid (TPP). This tiny sap-sucking insect feeds on potato, sweet potato, chilli, tomato, tamarillo, capsicum, eggplant, and goji berry plants, affecting growth and spreading disease.