Plant Health Diagnostic Service: Plant pests and diseases identification

The Plant Health Diagnostic Service (PHDS) located at the Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute (EMAI) at Menangle supports surveillance, accreditation, export, diagnostic and emergency activities for plant pests and diseases in NSW and interstate.

Our role

The testing conducted by the PHDS helps to protect NSW multi-billion dollar food industries against emerging diseases, and safeguard against biosecurity threats.

The PHDS have expertise in a full range of crops including fruit, vegetables and field crops as well as ornamental plants and pastures.

Our specialist plant pathologists and entomologists have the backing of the Agricultural Scientific Collections Unit, which houses Australia's largest collection of agriculturally significant insects, fungi and plant bacteria.

Our services


The diagnostic laboratory facilities at EMAI offer quality assured, comprehensive testing for:

  • diagnosing crop disease and disorders
  • identifying insect and mite problems (undertaken at the Orange Agricultural Institute)
  • imported seed-associated pathogens
  • exported plant products (tissue culture and seeds)
  • targeted pathogens for area freedom certification

Price lists

Our diagnostic services are supported by a dedicated Customer Service Unit that can be contacted on 1800 675 623 for information on submitting samples, test prices, reports and invoices.

Emergency response

The PHDS provides a critical service in the diagnosis and management of an Exotic Plant Pest (EPP) incursion where the resources of the laboratory are required to be 'emergency-ready' and able to cope with a significant increase in testing.

Suspect EPP can be reported via the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.

Research partnerships

The PHDS and researchers within the DPI Plant Biosecurity Research group work together under the banner of Plant Protection and regularly confer on diagnostic problems and practices related to specific commodity groups and pathogen expertise (citrus, berries, grains and bacterial pathogens). The PHDS personnel participate in urban, peri-urban and rural surveys which target pests and diseases of important agricultural crops.

Our facilities

EMAI is the only diagnostic and research facility of its type dedicated specifically to primary industries in Australia.

The facilities at EMAI underwent an award-winning $57 million upgrade in 2012, providing NSW with world-leading biosecurity facilities to service primary producers across NSW.

Features of the facilities at EMAI include:

  • high level containment facilities, vital for managing animal and plant biosecurity emergencies. These include Physical Containment level 2 (PC2) laboratories and Quarantine Containment level 3 (QC3) laboratories.
  • state of art building control systems that provide a web based interface to enable remote access providing more efficient operation
  • an ability to handle an escalation in an exotic disease outbreak or multiple outbreaks at the same time.

These facilities allow DPI to undertake critical research on emerging diseases and improved diagnostic services for plant and animal diseases, protecting the State's multi-billion dollar primary industries sector.

Diagnostics on a national scale

As part of our quality assurance commitment, the PHDS participates in the Australian National Quality Assurance Program (ANQAP) and is subject to annual proficiency testing.

Our pathologists are members of the National Plant Biosecurity Diagnostic Network and represent NSW on Plant Health Australia's Subcommittee on Plant Health Diagnostics (SPHD).

The PHDS is currently collaborating on a Plant Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre (PBCRC) funded project with the Victorian Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR) and the Plant Biosecurity Branch of the Federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) to develop, refine and evaluate Australia's diagnostic protocols for the detection of the cucumber green mottle mosaic virus and viroids in seed of cucurbit and solanaceous crops respectively.