Plant health diagnostic services

Our role

Through our purpose-built, state of the art laboratory and modern facilities, the Plant Health Diagnostic Service (PHDS) offers quality assured, comprehensive services in the following areas:

  • crop, amenity and native plant disease diagnostics
  • insect and mite identification
  • soil-borne pathogen monitoring
  • imported seed-associated pathogen testing
  • target-pathogen freedom for export-destined plant product
  • target-pathogen area freedom certification

With these services, we play a critical role in safeguarding NSW multi-billion dollar food industries against emerging diseases, offshore and interstate biosecurity threats.

The PHDS has expertise in a wide range of fruit, vegetable and field crops as well as pasture crops and ornamental and native plants.

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.

The PHDS and researchers within the DPI Plant Biosecurity Research unit based at EMAI together form the broader group ‘Plant Protection’. Staff regularly cooperate to discuss matters of practice and to solve diagnostic problems related to specific commodity groups and pathogen expertise. The PHDS personnel participate in urban, peri-urban and rural surveys which target pests and diseases of highest concern to agricultural crops.

Emergency response

The diagnostic capability and capacity of the PHDS are critical to the management of an exotic plant pest (EPP) incursion. As such, the laboratory and personnel are required to be 'emergency-ready' and able to cope with a surge in testing.

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

To combat emerging threats, we continually seek to improve our capability and capacity by upgrading existing tests and developing new ones. Improvements are developed and validated in accordance with our National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) quality assurance (QA) requirements.

Diagnostics on a national scale

As part of our QA 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 (NPBDN) and represent NSW on the Plant Health Australia (PHA) 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 (CGMMV) and viroids in seed of cucurbit and solanaceous crops respectively.