Plant Health Sciences
The Plant Health Sciences Unit helps to reduce the effects of insect pests and diseases on the yield, quality and marketability of grain and horticultural crops using effective and environmentally sustainable practices. Major crops targeted include wheat, rice, chickpeas, faba beans, canola and sesame seed, as well as citrus, bananas, deciduous fruits, nuts, berries and vegetables, plus pastures, cotton and ornamentals.
New diagnostic tests are developed to underpin surveillance, prevention, control or eradication strategies for significant agricultural and horticultural plant diseases and pests, both endemic and exotic. Research seeks to reduce pesticide use and environmental impact and improve market access in fruit, vegetable and field crop production. Strategies to delay and manage the impact of insecticide resistance by a range of insect and mite pests are also developed.
Through the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for National Plant Biosecurity, our scientists are linked into an emerging national network for plant health surveillance and reference laboratories to improve Australias preparedness for, and response to, exotic plant pest and disease incursions.
Research information from the unit provides a sound science basis for policy decisions by the NSW, Commonwealth and other state governments in plant health science, quarantine and biosecurity areas.
Key research achievements
- Reduced impact of cereal rusts across Australia through strong science input to the Australian Cereal Rust Control Program which develops germ plasm resistant to emerging rust pathovars for use by all wheat and barley breeding programs;
- Pathology support to breeding programs for durum wheat, chickpeas, faba beans, lupins, canola and forage legumes, to identify germ plasm resistant to key diseases;
Strategies to reduce the level of chemical use and the onset of insecticide resistance in pests of stored grain;
- Development and implementation of integrated pest and disease management programs which have reduced the use of chemicals in grain and horticultural crops;
Development and maintenance of collections of horticultural crop germ plasm certified free of specific viruses and other pathogens, and provision of this to industry as healthy foundation stock;
- Successful identification and mass rearing of a range of native insects which parasitise imported pest insect species, allowing greenhouse fruit and vegetables to be produced free of pesticides;
Strategies for managing Western flower thrips by horticultural growers in the Sydney Basin and nationally;
- Major science inputs to the large tri-state fruit fly control program which underpins market access by our citrus industry to high value global markets.
Key research infrastructure
Key research collaborations
Research funders: Grains R&D (research and development) Corporation, Horticulture Australia Limited, Rural Industries R&D Corporation, Cotton R&D Corporation, Australian Council for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), Plant Health Australia, Australian Quarantine and Information Service, AusAID, Biosecurity Australia.
Research providers: Queensland Department of Primary Industries and other state departments of agriculture or primary industry; the Universities of Sydney, Western Sydney, Newcastle, Charles Sturt, New England and Southern Cross; Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation Entomology.
International: Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, ACIAR in Vietnam and Cambodia, and various cooperators in Europe, NZ and USA.
Research Leader, Plant and Health Sciences
Phone: 02 4348 1944