Home' Grower : May 2013 Contents The South Australian Grower -- May 2013
Revolutionary test spots
sure signs of fireblight
By MAX OPRAY
ANEW ground-breaking test to
detect fireblight in apples and
pears could be used by
Australian quarantine officials within
six months, according to the scientist
spearheading the project.
La Trobe University PhD candidate
Rachel Mann has developed a diag-
nostic test that promises to revolu-
tionise screening procedures for the
disease, which causes the blackening
of plant tissue and can wipe out an
entire orchard in a single season.
Australia's $450 million apple and
pear industry is free of fireblight but
the disease is endemic in countries
now permitted to export apples to the
Australian market, such as New
Ms Mann began working on a new
form of testing in 2007 after DPI col-
leagues noticed that procedures return
a high number of false positives for
contaminated produce, and potential-
ly devastating false negatives.
Backed by government and the apple
and pear industry bodies, Ms Mann
and her Australian team collaborated
with scientists from Cornell in the
United States and Agroscope in
Switzerland to sequence the DNA of
the fireblight bacterium Er winia
"We used a technique called compar-
ative genomics to compare different
variations of the fireblight bacteria with
closely related bacteria that we do have
in Australia that were giving us positive
results in the old tests," she said.
"We found signatures in the DNA
that were only present in fireblight,
and we were able to develop the new
test from there."
She hopes her test will be taken
advantage of in Australia, and
"The goal of the project I'm
working on is to help develop a
new protocol -- a standard for
plant health diagnostics -- and we
have collaborators in Europe and
elsewhere, so hopefully it will be
standardised internationally and
our trading partners will use it
too," she said.
"The work has been supported
by the Co-operative Research
Centre for National Plant
Biosecurity, and through that we
maintain close ties with the
Australian Quarantine and
Inspection Ser vice, so we've been
in regular contact about when
they might roll this out."
Ms Mann's studies have result-
ed in five major international sci-
entific papers and the Nancy
Researcher Rachel Manne (pictured with Brendan Rodoni, DPI) is on
the cusp of a breakthrough in fireblight research.
DNA sequencing improves
Disease threatens apple,
More validation needed
'Late' Kilburn fruitfly outbreak
triggers eradication response
BIOSECURITY SA has declared a fruitfly
outbreak at Kilburn in Adelaide's
This is South Australia's first
outbreak of the season, and comes
late in the season.
It was confirmed following detection
of a fertile female Mediterranean fruit
fly in a trap.
A 1.5 kilometre quarantine area has
been declared around the detection
site. The eradication response program
will continue for 10 to 12 weeks after
the last 'wild' fly is found, subject to
The quarantine area is near the
intersection of Churchill and Regency
Roads and includes parts of the
suburbs of Regency Park, Dudley Park,
Blair Athol and Kilburn.
Some supplementary fruitfly traps
have been installed. The trapping grid
provides an alert of potential
outbreaks and has enabled the
Biosecurity SA Plant Health team to
quickly activate an eradication
response and limit spread of the
The work undertaken by Biosecurity
SA in the past 10 years has resulted in
a significant reduction in the level of
outbreaks in SA, which is the only
mainland state free of fruitfly.
Biosecurity SA manager-plant and
food standards Geoff Raven said it was
disappointing to declare an outbreak,
and important that people helped
contain its spread.
"People within the quarantine zones
must not remove fresh fruit, fruiting
vegetables or garden waste from their
properties, or compost fruit and
vegetables during the eradication
program. However, fruit and vegetable
waste can be placed in green waste
bins as usual," he said.
Mr Raven said an organic bait
spotting program would be undertaken
until no further wild fruit flies were
"Home grown fruit and fruiting
vegetables can only be removed from
the quarantine area if they are cooked
or processed," he said. "This includes
tomatoes, capsicums, chillies,
eggplant, stone fruits, pome fruits,
citrus, loquats and table grapes. These
are potential hosts for the pest and the
movement of fruit and vegetables
during the quarantine period could
start new outbreaks."
An outbreak can be sparked by
people travelling with maggot-
infested, fresh produce from interstate.
"If fruitfly becomes established in
South Australia, this could jeopardise
markets for our $675 million fresh fruit
and vegetable industry," Mr Raven
"By helping keep SA fruitfly free you
are also protecting your own backyard
and enjoying home grown fruit that
does not have fruitfly maggots in it -- a
luxury other states would envy."
Householders and property owners in
the quarantine zone are asked to
provide Biosecurity SA's fruitfly
eradication teams with access to their
properties, to check their backyard
fruit and vegetables.
Details: www.pir.sa.gov.au. Maggots found
in fruit or vegetables can be reported to
the 24-hour fruit fly hotline 1300 666 010.
South Australia is
the only mainland
state free of fruit
Millis Postgraduate Thesis Award
from the Victorian Department
of Primary Industries.
Her PhD research was jointly
super vised by LaTrobe specialist
in plant pathogens and fungal dis-
ease Kim Plummer and Brendan
Rodoni, who works for La Trobe
and the DPI.
Despite the results, the
Department of Agriculture,
Fisheries and Forestry is not quite
ready to jump aboard with the
A DAFF spokesperson claimed
quarantine officials were aware of
the new fireblight test, but were
awaiting scientific validation
before considering it further.
The research is currently being
scrutinised in the US and Ms
Mann is going through a process
"We're just making sure that the
process really is the best, by test-
ing it in as many different envi-
ronments as we can," she said.
Her next project involves devel-
oping new international stan-
dards for diagnosis of diseases
such as zebra chip in potatoes.
Details: Co-operative Research Centre
for National Plant Biosecurity 02 6201
The goal of the
project I'm working
on is to help develop
a new protocol -- a
standard for plant
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