A trial of a computer-based data collection system to help identify the incidence of orchard pests has been given a $330000 funding boost from the Federal Government.
Federal Agriculture and Water Resources Assistant Minister Luke Hartsuyker joined Federal Member for Murray Damian Drum in Shepparton to announce the funding for Plant Health Australia to conduct the trial, which could provide a range of biosecurity and trade benefits for Australian agriculture.
The money will fund the trial of AusPestCheck as part of the National Plant Health Surveillance Program, which collects critical information on plant pests across Australia to support its plant industries.
The MPs visited Geoffrey Thompson’s apple orchard in north Shepparton to make the announcement last week.
‘‘This trial will enable automation of the capture, collation and sharing of accurate plant pest data collected by industry and state and territory governments and provided through AusPestCheck, rather than relying on manual number crunching,’’ Mr Hartsuyker said.
‘‘It will save time and valuable resources and has the potential to significantly benefit Australia’s horticulture industry from both a biosecurity and trade point of view.
‘‘It could help us provide added assurance to our agricultural trading partners on Australia’s plant health status, which is a crucial part of ongoing and new market access opportunities.’’
Geoffrey Thompson orchard manager Brent Reeve said the support for any measure assisting export was important.
‘‘It’s always hard to gather (pest) data,’’ Mr Reeve said.
‘‘We have traps out monitoring in blocks. We have a person who checks the traps each week and records the data onto a spread-sheet. This will be transferred onto the new data base.’’
Mr Reeve said the Goulburn Valley grew about 80 per cent of Australia’s pears and about 25 to 30 per cent of Australia’s apples.
He said any research and development into practices which would allow the industry to use less chemical control would be welcome.