Horticultural pests come by wind
VICTORIAN scientists are helping to protect Australia’s horticulture industry by developing better surveillance strategies to prevent the establishment and spread of foreign wind-borne pests.
Entomologists at Victoria’s centre for Agribioscience in Bundoora, recently completed a Plant Biosecurity CRC review on the dangers of long distance wind dispersal as a route for pests and pathogens landing in Australia.
Research leader Alan Yen said the research particularly focuses on identifying the location and seasonality of the major wind channels that transport high risk pests and pathogens.
“Wind channels flowing from New Zealand, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, South Africa and the Pacific can all carry high risk pests, depending on the time of year,” Dr Yen said.
“The project involves gathering and using information regarding the timing and location of the first recorded arrivals of selected foreign pests and pathogens into Australia.
“This data is then compared with the wind patterns during each corresponding time, which allows us to track the journey of the pests and pathogens back to their approximate point of origin.”
Dr Yen said the research also showed different wind-borne pests and pathogens travel when weather conditions are favourable for their survival during their journeys.
“Past incursions from New Zealand include the currant lettuce aphid in 2004 and the giant pine aphid in 2014 which arrived during prolonged periods of easterly winds,” Dr Yen said.
“The tomato potato psyllid is currently one of the highest risk foreign pest threats to the Australian horticultural industry as it has the potential to devastate our potato and tomato industries.
“Data from this research has revealed this insect is most likely to blow over from New Zealand during March when there are several days of favourable easterly winds that enable the insects to travel to Australia in 72-192 hours.”