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Why plant biodiversity?

McKirdy, S., Shea, G., Hardie, D. and Eagling, D. (2008) Why plant biodiversity? In: J.A. Palta and J.B. Berger (eds). 2008. Lupins for Health and Wealth. Proceedings of the 12th International Lupin Conference, 14 - 18 September, Fremantle, Western Australia pp. 412-415.

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Plant biosecurity is a global issue that continues to grow in importance as the volume of trade between countries and the number of people travelling increases. Australia is free from many of the pests and diseases that affect plant industries and natural environments in other countries. This freedom provides a competitive advantage to Australia as a major agricultural exporter reliant on its international reputation as a producer of ‘clean and green’ agricultural and food products. Australia also places a high value on protecting our unique environment and lifestyle for future generations. Plant biosecurity is essential to protect these values.

Plant biosecurity is focussed on those pests (insects and plant pathogens) that are; not currently present in Australia, are present but not in all production regions of Australia and are being actively controlled, or those pests that represent a new threat as their biology has changed.

Plant biosecurity can impact on food safety, food security, trade, market access, market development, production costs and, ultimately, the profitability and sustainability of plant industries. Incursions of new pests directly threaten the economic viability of Australia's plant industries, which have an annual farm gate value of over $18 billion and annually contribute over $12 billion to export income. Even the perception that a pest is present in Australian produce can have a rapid and negative impact on Australia's reputation as a producer of safe, quality food products.

The Australian lupin industry is threatened by several pests including Sitona spp. and Uromyces lupinicola (lupin rust). Both pests would significantly impact on lupin production in Australia should they be introduced.

To minimise the risk of entry and establishment of threats such as a Sitona sp. and lupin rust, research activities must cover the full biosecurity continuum, pre–border, border and post–border. Plant biosecurity is a continuum that draws together many different disciplines. It differs from plant protection in that it is risk management – being strategic for the future needs.

This paper provides an overview of plant biosecurity from an Australian perspective with two case studies of serious biosecurity pest threats to the Australian lupin industry. The case studies explore the critical questions that need to be addressed when identifying the threat posed by a pest species. The paper also addresses the need for a high level of biosecurity awareness and reporting throughout the international lupin industry.

Publication Type: Conference Paper
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