DPIRD biosecurity responses protecting WA agriculture industry and market access

DPIRD officers Sonya Broughton (left), Bill Trend, Vincent Lanoiselet and Dr Bruce Twentyman discuss strategies during the department’s Q-fly response.

Department staff throughout Western Australia are currently engaged in a number of concurrent biosecurity incidents to protect the State’s valuable fruit and vegetable industries.

More than 25,000 hours have been devoted to three major incident responses: Queensland fruit fly (Qfly), citrus canker and tomato potato psyllid over many months.

A dedicated incident response group was established for each incursion, led by staff trained in emergency biosecurity management and involving officers from around the State.


Movement restrictions have been in place in several southern Perth suburbs since May, when Qfly was detected in Como.

Qfly is one of the most destructive pests to a range of fruits and some vegetables, which, if not eradicated, could have a serious impact on WA’s commercial orchards and crops.

Since the detection, 1182 properties (94 per cent) located within 200 metres of the detection point have been contacted as part of the department’s eradication program.

More than 3500 baitings on 608 properties have been carried out as part of a surveillance program, with no further Qfly detections.

Incursions of Qfly have been eradicated from Perth four times since the 1980s, most recently in 2016 in Alfred Cove and earlier this year in Fremantle.

Quarantine restrictions are likely to remain in place until early November.

More information and updates on the Qfly response program is available here

Citrus Canker

The department has also been working with industry and the community in the State’s north to minimise the impact of the contagious disease citrus canker, after it was confirmed in Kununurra and Wyndham in May.

The detection on three properties was linked to plants imported from the Northern Territory, where it was found on properties in Darwin and Katherine.

Citrus canker is a contagious disease that causes unsightly lesions on leaves, fruit and stems.

While it does not pose a risk to human health and fruit remains safe to eat, it can have a serious impact on production.

Quarantine Areas were declared in June within a 50 kilometre radius of the Kununurra and Wyndham post offices to prevent the spread of the disease in the East Kimberley.

More than 450 properties have been visited in the area as part of the department’s surveillance activities.

More than 21,000 staff hours have been dedicated to the response, including those from the department’s Kununurra office and other offices throughout the State.

Recently the department has been working with the local industry, residents and the Kununurra Region Economic Aboriginal Corporation to remove host plants, as required under the national response plan.

These removal activities are complete in Wyndham and in one of the two Restricted Areas in Kununurra. Work in the other Restricted Area in Kununurra will be completed this month.

The movement restrictions in the Quarantine Areas, which include the three Restricted Areas and the Control Areas, will currently remain in place until 18 May 2019.

For more information about the citrus canker biosecurity response click here.

Tomato potato psyllid

Over the past 18 months department staff have also been engaged in activities to assist industry transition to management of the sap-sucking insect tomato potato psyllid (TPP).

TPP attacks a range of plants including potato, tomato, eggplant, capsicum, chilli, tamarillo and sweet potato.

The insect was detected in WA in February 2017 – the first time it had been found in Australia, prompting a comprehensive biosecurity response.

The cost shared response for TTP/CLso has now concluded and WA has transitioned to management, following a national agreement by Federal and State governments and the horticulture industry that TPP could not be eradicated and that efforts should now focus on managing the pest by implementing a national plan. 

The Transition to Management Plan was designed to improve the capacity of the horticulture sector to manage TPP and outputs of the transition to management, including enterprise management plans, research outcomes and recommendation of harmonised movement conditions, will be available soon.

TPP is a known vector for the Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum (CLso) bacterium, which results in the potato ‘zebra chip’ disease.

CLso has not been detected in Australia. However, due to its association with TPP in other countries, domestic import restrictions based on CLso were placed on seed and ware potatoes stopping interstate exports.

The department has completed extensive surveillance and testing of thousands of psyllids for CLso.

In a major step forward, WA recently met the national surveillance requirements to demonstrate absence of CLso in WA.

WA is now working closely with other states as they review their interstate movement restrictions related to CLso.

A Quarantine Area remains in effect for the Perth metropolitan area and surrounds to help minimise the spread of TPP.

Commercial vegetable growers, the nursery industry and home gardeners have been reminded to adhere to conditions on the movement of host plants. 

More information about the TPP response is available here.


The department’s efforts to address these biosecurity threats has served to minimise the impact of the pests and diseases on WA valuable agricultural industry.

If left uncontained, these and other biosecurity incursions could threaten agricultural production, market access, increase production costs and impact on our outdoor lifestyle.

WA has an enviable biosecurity status, free from many of the world’s worst pests and diseases, which enables efficient and cost effective production and essential market access.

With more than 80 per cent of the State’s agricultural production destined for export, it is imperative this biosecurity reputation is protected.

Good biosecurity is the result of a strong partnership between government, industry and the community.

Early detection is crucial to an effective biosecurity response so it is important we all remain vigilant report any observations or unusual or suspect pests and diseases to the department immediately.

This can be done by the DPIRD Pest and Disease Information Service on 9368 3080, the Emergency Animal Diseases Hotline 1800 675 888, the Exotic Pest Hotline 1800 083 881 or email or download the free MyPestGuide Reporter app.