UPDATE: Northern Territory seeks eradication status for citrus canker

Thursday, 8 October 2020

Citrus canker presents a large biosecurity threat to the citrus industry, destroying crops and affecting trade.

Citrus canker was detected in the Northern Territory in 2018, which was the first time it had been detected since it was eradicated from Queensland in 2009.

Following this incursion, this contagious bacterial disease affected both Western Australia and the Northern Territory, with Western Australia managing to successfully eradicate the disease. The Northern Territory is on the right track, implementing the updated 2020 National Response Plan to prove it’s free of citrus canker.

Developed and implemented by the Northern Territory Government, this version of the Plan aims to verify the absence of the disease by the end of 2020, allowing the Territory to move from monitoring the disease under regulation back to standard routine surveillance.

Protecting Australia’s biosecurity status is critical for the nursery industry; enabling growers to produce a safe, high-quality product that customers value.

Delimitation and surveillance activities

In 2019, activities were carried out to measure the extent of the disease in the Northern Territory and the best approach to surveillance and removal of the disease.

Key takeaways from these activities included:

  • 16 infected premises were confirmed in the Northern Territory from 532 samples and over 15,000 plant inspections.
  • This resulted in the establishment of 13 restricted areas and a declared quarantine area within a 600m radius of an infected plant and two larger control areas.
  • Surveillance was completed within the restricted areas by September 2019, with 39% of properties within the areas identified with host plants.
  • A total of 6,192 host plants were removed in the restricted areas by December 2019.
  • Following removals, a fallow period was established in all restricted areas – this period has since been lifted for Katherine and Darwin, with two control areas remaining in place until entire area freedom is declared for the Northern Territory.

Achieving eradication

In early 2020, the Plan then looked to gather evidence and findings to prove the absence of citrus canker in the Northern Territory. Once collated, a ‘proof of freedom’ report will be submitted to the national plant biosecurity committees by the end of 2020 to support the Northern Territory’s claim of successful eradication.

A successful claim will see the remaining restrictions and controls on citrus host plants lifted, giving the green light for trade and surveillance across Australia to return to normal.

Keep an eye for more updates on the Northern Territory’s 2020 National Response Plan, ‘proof of freedom’ report and eradication status.

More information on citrus canker can be found at the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources website: http://www.agriculture.gov.au/pests-diseases-weeds/plant/citrus-canker.

The ‘National Nursery Industry Biosecurity Program’ (NY15004) project is funded by Hort Innovation using the nursery levy and additional funds from the Australian Government.