Poster Presentation Science Protecting Plant Health 2017

The challenges of fungal and bacterial diagnostics in tropical north Queensland (#219)

Kathy R Grice 1 , Peter R Trevorrow 1 , Nandita Pathania 1 , Lynton L Vawdrey 1
  1. Dept of Agriculture and Fisheries, Mareeba, QLD, Australia

Tropical north Queensland is a unique environment and has its own set of challenges for fungal and bacterial diagnosticians to deal with on a daily basis.  Risks or threats can be from external or internal sources and this requires staff to remain vigilant and constantly on the lookout for new and exotic plant pathogens.  First and foremost is our proximity to neighbouring countries that are known to have plant diseases currently exotic to Australia.  Some examples include, Eumusae leaf spot of banana (Mycosphaerella eumusae), coffee leaf rust (Hemileia vastatrix) and citrus greening disease (Candidatus Liberibacter spp.), these are present in Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia respectively.  Cropping in the region is highly variable and includes tropical and subtropical fruits and vegetables, pulses, pasture grasses and ornamentals (to name a few).  The addition of protected and intensive cropping of blueberries in the region is a prime example whereby a new suite of  diseases and insect pests have emerged.  The list of hosts dealt with on an annual basis is on the increase and this diversification is a challenge in itself, requiring diagnosticians to be generalists rather than a specialist.  Another challenge is the isolation from specialist groups with expertise in fields such as virology or specific molecular technologies.  In these situations, we rely heavily on other regions that have the capacity to assist in these specific areas.  Compared to research and development, diagnostics is not as highly valued but is still an integral component of plant pathology.  Diagnostics in general can be extremely frustrating but highly rewarding at the same time.