CH11000 - Chestnut Industry Biosecurity Officer
In September 2010 an outbreak of the disease chestnut blight was confirmed in Northeast Victoria which is one of the key Australian chestnut production regions. The disease was caused by the exotic fungus Cryphonectria parasitica.
Chestnut blight had previously been identified by Agriculture Victoria [now Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Victoria] staff in 2001 as the single most important exotic disease that could threaten Australian chestnut production. The statement was made in a study titled Incursion Risk Analysis for the Australian Chestnut Industry which was commissioned by the Chestnut Growers Association of Australia within Horticulture Australia Project CH99005. The 2010 outbreak was therefore a major concern on the future viability and functionality of the Australian chestnut industry. DPI (Victoria) responded quickly to the outbreak setting up an Incident Management Team (IMT) with trained staff. Also in the period soon after detection a Chestnut blight National Management Group agreed to a national cost-sharing response to eradicate the disease. An Emergency Plant Pest Response Plan targeting the eradication of chestnut blight from Victoria was approved and implemented by DPI (Victoria). This plan has involved widespread field surveys, the destruction of infected and at risk trees, and ongoing surveillance. Commonwealth Government Departments and agencies, State Government agencies in other states, and the chestnut industry have supported the targeted eradication process. DPI (Victoria) and Chestnuts Australia Inc. (CAI) have conducted and facilitated many opportunities for chestnut producers to be provided with specific detail on the etiology of the causative fungus as well as general principles of biosecurity. When the chestnut blight outbreak was confirmed, CAI appointed a task force, the Blight Co-ordination Committee, to support DPI (Victoria) and keep growers informed. A media spokesperson was appointed to ensure media coverage was accurate and to constantly highlight the need for growers to implement on farm biosecurity procedures. The current project was developed to complement these efforts. The current project had a simple aim. This was to improve biosecurity awareness in the Australian chestnut industry. The project utilised an integrated extension approach that relied on using existing knowledge to convey clear biosecurity protocols to chestnut producers. A project newsletter was developed and was the key platform to provide specific biosecurity messages to a broad audience. A capacity to conduct on-farm visits was offered to producers in the vicinity of the known outbreak of chestnut blight producers. An industry liaison role was also built into the project. Outcomes relating to implementing industry specific biosecurity protocols, increasing awareness to the adoption of on-farm biosecurity measures and maintaining publicity on best practice biosecurity procedures were identified at the commencement of the project. A biosecurity survey targeting CAI members conducted towards the end of the project has strongly indicated that there is an improved awareness of general biosecurity principles within the chestnut industry. The survey also indicated there has been practice change relating to a variety of biosecurity protocols across the industry. Whilst the current project cannot take specific credit for this, it is likely that project work has in part contributed to an improved capacity for the Australian chestnut industry to return to its former blight free position.
Funded by the Chestnut Industry levy with matched funding from the Australian Government.
Primary Investigator: Gary Baxter | Phone: 03 5752 1827,