Advanced tech helping tackle cane threats

iMapPESTS program to help protect sugar cane industry

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WATCHING: Sugar Research Australia (SRA) molecular plant pathologist, Dr Nicole Thompson, addresses the Case IH Step Up conference in Bundaberg on the topic of pest surveillance in the cane industry.

WATCHING: Sugar Research Australia (SRA) molecular plant pathologist, Dr Nicole Thompson, addresses the Case IH Step Up conference in Bundaberg on the topic of pest surveillance in the cane industry.

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Some advanced kit is coming into play to help defend against cane nasties.

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MOTH borers remain one of the highest priority pests for Australian sugar cane production.

For this reason, Australian researchers have taken a proactive approach to clarifying control measures and gathering information about the pest.

While not established in Australia, there are 36 major moth pest species worldwide with seven regarded as high risk to Australia.

The nation's geographic proximity to Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and South East Asia, where the moths live, mean Australia remains a potential migration point.

Speaking on the first day of the CaseIH Step Up conference in Bundaberg on Tuesday, Sugar Research Australia (SRA) molecular plant pathologist, Dr Nicole Thompson, said significant work had been done to forearm against the threat.

Some of this work included updating species and specimen information in databases and collections; preparing new dossiers based on this research; developing new diagnostic protocols; and updating the geographic distribution of the moth borers.

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The pest was just one major concern mentioned by Dr Thompson who also spoke on iMapPESTS, a nationwide research and development collaborative initiative between Australia's major plant industries with a goal of developing a way to rapidly monitor and report the presence of airborne pests and diseases for multiple agricultural sectors, including viticulture, grains, cotton, sugar, horticulture and forestry.

The project is about advanced surveillance technologies such as automated trapping and sampling for detecting and monitoring a wide range of endemic and exotic pests.

The project will also produce several flexible surveillance hubs with trapping technologies that can be mobilised in response to industry needs such as in response to incursions.

TECH: The Sentinel is a custom-designed surveillance trailer unit designed to offer optimal sampling of airborne fungal spores and insects.

TECH: The Sentinel is a custom-designed surveillance trailer unit designed to offer optimal sampling of airborne fungal spores and insects.

One of the pieces of equipment is the Sentinel.

The Sentinel is a custom-designed surveillance trailer unit designed to offer optimal sampling of airborne fungal spores and insects.

The Sentinel has four different air samplers: two spore samplers which are high-volume, designed to collect airborne spores; a 2m insect suction trap to monitor localised insect dynamics; and 6m insect suction trap, for monitoring of long-distance migratory insect flights.

Each air sampler is automated and collects samples into small vials for fungal spores or larger vials or larger pots for insects.

These are barcoded and read by a scanner onboard and in the labs for complete traceability.

Dr Thompson said sugarcane had many established pests and diseases such as mosaic, Fiji leaf gall, leaf scald, smut, RSD and others.

It's hoped the iMapPESTS project will assist multiple plant industries in managing these threats.

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