PEOPLE lucky enough to Wander out Yonder during the spring school holidays are being reminded to take precautions to prevent the spread of pests, weeds and disease.
With state borders closed, it is anticipated there will be an increase of intrastate travel during coming weeks, elevating the biosecurity risk to WA’s agricultural industries and the environment.
Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) chief plant biosecurity officer Sonya Broughton urged travellers to keep biosecurity front of mind when moving from one location to another.
“Simple biosecurity measures like brushing off shoes, clothing, camp equipment and cars and bagging food scraps before departure prevent the risk of pests or plant and animal diseases being transferred from one place to another,” she said.
“It only takes one unfortunate incident for an unsuspected biosecurity risk to ‘hitchhike’ to a new location, breed and become a risk to agricultural production and profitability.”
The department is engaged in several biosecurity responses and surveillance operations, including eradicating Queensland fruit fly from Perth’s western suburbs, as well as monitoring for red imported fire ant and browsing ant in the metropolitan area.
It is also working with grain-belt landholders to monitor a new pest to the state, Russian wheat aphid, which cannot be eradicated but can be controlled.
There are now 24 confirmed detections of Russian wheat aphid from the Esperance region, while reports of absence and presence from throughout the grain belt are still encouraged to help determine the spread of the pest of wheat, barley and oat crops.
A summer campaign to monitor the hills and surrounding areas for the social pest European wasp will also soon be cranking up, to minimise its impact on horticulture crops, the environment and WA’s outdoor lifestyle.
Dr Broughton said pests, diseases and weeds were a serious threat to WA’s agricultural industry, in lost production and control costs, which could significantly affect farmers’ livelihoods.
“While biosecurity threats have been reduced this year, due to reduced interstate and international movements, there may be undiscovered biosecurity risks,’’ she said.
One of those risks is myrtle rust, a fungus spread by spores, which attacks plants belonging to the Myrtaceae family, including eucalypts, bottle brushes, paperbarks and peppermint trees.
Myrtle rust, which is present in the eastern states, can be spread by the movement of vehicles and people.
Bushwalkers are encouraged to report any signs of myrtle rust to the department, which includes bright orange to yellow clumps of powdery spores on foliage and twigs.
Dr Broughton said biosecurity was everyone’s businesses and the public played an important role in the first line of detection.
“Together with department surveillance, the public is on the first line of biosecurity defence,” she said.
“Early detection of any pest, weed or disease is key to an effective, rapid response so it is important to report anything unusual to the department as soon as possible for identification.”