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

Gardening Australia - - DECEMBER -

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.

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