Project NY19007: a joint effort in strengthening the nursery industry’s biosecurity

Friday, 11 September 2020

New levy-funded project ‘Improving surveillance strategies for tospoviruses and thrips to enhance the biosecurity of the nursery industry’ (NY19007) is underway – this time a joint venture, with Hort Innovation engaging two separate research teams to provide insights from two completely different environments, temperate Victoria and subtropical Queensland.

Both Agriculture Victoria and The University of Queensland have been offered the opportunity to appoint PhD scholars to assist their respective research teams investigate the risks of tospoviruses and thrips to the nursery industry.

Tospoviruses are some of the most economically damaging plant viruses, reflected in their large host range. They are transmitted by thrips, which are small insects that range from 0.5 – 15mm in length, such as western flower thrips, onion thrips and melon thrips.

There are four species of tospovirus that occur in Australia – tomato spotted wilt virus, capsicum chlorosis virus, iris yellow spot virus and impatiens necrotic spot virus. However, at least five times this number have been successfully excluded from Australia, putting a spotlight on the biosecurity threat they pose, as well as the importance of effective surveillance strategies.

Once thrips acquire the virus, they retain the ability to infect other plants throughout their entire lifespan, so this project seeks to develop an integrated pest and disease management system to mitigate this risk.

Improving surveillance strategies for tospoviruses and thrips will reduce the likelihood of new species entering Australia and prevent locally occurring species from becoming widespread in the nursery industry.

About the project

Agriculture Victoria and The University of Queensland will run their projects in parallel and will be closely communicating with each other.

The teams will be able to identify distinct differences in virus epidemiology based on variation in climate. For example, the tropical and temperate environment could reveal differences in population dynamics of the thrips insects and viruses being assessed, highlighting the level of risk of disease that could potentially impact nurseries.

In Queensland, capsicum chlorosis virus and iris yellow spot virus are more prevalent than in Victoria, whereas in Victoria tomato spotted wilt virus commonly occurs in nursery and other production systems and there is a risk of impatiens necrotic spot becoming established.

Both teams will undertake work on thrips populations, focusing on genetics, detecting disease in wholesale nurseries, the level of risk and how best it can be mitigated.

The two project teams are aiming to meet every 6 months to share updates and identify similarities and differences in results based on the varied environmental conditions.

Stay tuned for more updates on these projects as they progress.

For more information, you can contact projects leads Fiona Constable, Agriculture Victoria, fiona.constable@agriculture.vic.gov.au and Andrew Geering, University of Queensland, a.geering@uq.edu.au

The ‘Improving surveillance strategies for tospoviruses and thrips to enhance the biosecurity of the nursery industry’ (NY19007) project is funded by Hort Innovation using the nursery industry levy and funds from the Australian Government.