CropSafe is a pest and disease surveillance program for grains, which is dependent upon a voluntary 180-member agronomist network (approximately 85 per cent of Victoria’s agronomists) to identify threats to the Victorian grains industry.
During the growing season advisors submit plant samples to CropSafe collected during routine crop inspections where the causal agent cannot be identified. CropSafe forwards any suspected exotic sample immediately to Crop Health Services. Diagnosis of these samples provides real-time information for emerging issues, informing industry and generating surveillance data.
However, the ability of advisors to correctly identify diseases can vary significantly, hence the diagnostic capabilities of advisors are developed via regular training opportunities with plant pathologists. This increases the probability of detecting something unusual (potentially exotic).
Apart from early detection of crop pests and diseases, the program helps assure domestic and international markets of its’ Area of Freedom (AoF) status. The Chief Plant Health Officer relies on CropSafe surveillance data for market access-related AoF claims.
So, Victoria has a broadacre biosecurity surveillance network, but does it work? The recent Russian wheat aphid (RWA) incursion has highlighted the benefits of CropSafe, including improved management and industry response due to effective surveillance activities. In the case of the 2016 RWA incursion an advisor in the CropSafe network was the first to detect RWA in Victoria.
An economic analysis and evaluation of the CropSafe program has been completed with findings indicative of excellent value for money. The Expected Net Present Value (ENPV) for the early detection of exotic diseases such as Karnal bunt is substantial - $130 million discounted at seven per cent over a period of 20 years.