The National Plant Biosecurity Diagnostic Strategy (NPBDS), released in 2012, fulfills an essential component of the overarching National Plant Biosecurity Strategy. It publishes the agreed recommendations and actions necessary to ensure Australia has the people, infrastructure, diagnostic standards and tools to provide delivery of plant biosecurity diagnostic services. The Subcommittee on Plant Health Diagnostics (SPHD) aims to sustain and improve the quality and reliability of plant pest diagnostics in Australia, and is integral to achieving the recommendations in the NPBDS.
National Diagnostic Protocols (NDPs) are the endorsed standards for use as part of national responses to emergency plant pest incidents, providing unambiguous taxonomic identification of the pest or related group of pests. With 38 NDPs published, SPHD is focusing on the continued development of NDPs for the 40 priority plant pests or pest groups identified by the Australian Government and the 350+ priority pests identified through industry biosecurity planning processes. More recently NDPs are being enhanced by encompassing diagnostic procedures and processes that specifically support surveillance activities.
SPHD is also investigating methods to improve surge capacity in Australian diagnostic laboratories to manage the influx of samples in an incursion response, progressing the strategy for ensuring maintenance of valuable plant pest reference collections, and facilitating a proficiency testing program.
The National Plant Biosecurity Diagnostic Network (NPBDN) connects people who are integral to the plant biosecurity diagnostic system across Australia and neighboring countries, leading to improved capability and capacity. The NPDN is a flexible, self-organizing network with SPHD providing formal oversight and regulation. Through the NPBDN, diagnosticians receive professional development in areas of strategic need, opportunities for short-term residential laboratory exchanges, and participation in an annual workshop themed around common general diagnostic techniques or issues.
Continued implementation of the NPBDS will support diagnosticians and ensure Australia’s diagnostic system remains robust and effective.