Plant Protection Quarterly and the future of plant protection research in Australia

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Authors

Dr Stephen Johnson

Managing Editor, Plant Protection Quarterly


Cite this article as:

Johnson, S.B. (2012). Plant Protection Quarterly and the future of plant protection research in Australia. Plant Protection Quarterly 27(3), 90-1.


The future of plant protection research in Australia

An evaluation of the economic, societal and environmental impacts of the Australian Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) program has estimated a net benefit of $7.5 billion since program commencement in 1991; that estimate extending to 2017 (Allen Consulting Group 2012). Of the nearly 120 CRC’s that contributed to the program, there is little doubt that the now concluded CRC for Australian Weed Management and its predecessor the CRC for Weed Management systems, and the current Invasive Animals CRC, the CRC for National Plant Biosecurity and the Future Farm Industries CRC have all contributed to significant national plant protection (biosecurity) outcomes.

As models of cooperation, predominantly between State/Territory and the Australian governments and with significant University and industry partnership, CRCs have delivered multiple benefits. These include:

  • bringing together isolated specialists, each contributing different skills; and by doing so
  • promoting cooperation rather than competition for often limited financial and research resources; so
  • that a critical mass of research visionaries, innovators, researchers, policy makers, extension specialists, technology developers and end-users is achieved so that ideas can be ‘hot housed’, researched, developed and implemented, often with diverse cross-industry and sectoral outcomes; and
  • training the next generation of research staff, a need that is sorely apparent when one considers the current predominance of late career aged researchers in both the public service and some universities.

Continued rural research, including plant protection (biosecurity) research is vital. A recent review found that the Australian rural sector and farm-dependent economy accounted for 14% of exports, 17% of employment, 60% of the land mass and upwards of half of the total water use (Campbell 2012). Similar figures could be expected in like global economies. Biosecurity is one of the many cross-sectoral challenges facing land use planning and natural resource management, along with climate change, water use, biodiversity conservation, appropriate soil use, and of course, many conflicting social issues (Campbell 2012). At a time when the many cross-sectoral challenges face humanity, it seems more than a little counter-intuitive that reductions in the number of, and funding for cross-sectoral Research and Development Corporations (RDCs) is occurring along with the lapses in continued funding for many successful CRCSin Australia.

These pressures have only been magnified lately as many Australian State and Territory government departments seek to balance budgets by reducing professional and technical staff. Such pressures were apparent at the recent 18th Australasian Weeds Conference held in Melbourne in October 2012. Despite this, weed professionals from Australia, New Zealand, and from many parts of the world, presented new and challenging research with great professionalism and integrity (Copies of most papers can be found at CAWS 2008).

Ways forward

There are many possible ways forward, not the least guaranteed and continued funding for CRCs and cross-sectoral RDCs. There are at least three other ways that the situation can be improved in Australia however:

For the Council of Australasian Weed Societies (CAWS) who are the financial backers of the Australasian Weeds Conferences, (and similar member based Biosecurity societies) to become more involved with constituent member societies (and individual members). While there is no doubt that existing financial and other assistance is welcome, there are many additional ways to help support and encourage information exchange, networking and cooperation through conferences, forums and meetings.

For national (governmental) representative groups such as the Australian Weeds Committee, the Vertebrate Pest Committee, the Plant Health Committee and their parent group the National Biosecurity Committee to commit to a higher level of involvement and support. This may mean more active promotion through existing intra- and inter-agency networks in respective jurisdictions, cost-sharing or co-sponsorship with host societies, assisting conference convenors with event organisation, and committing to a guaranteed minimum number of attendees and their financial support.

In parallel, Plant Protection Quarterly will seek to work with CAWS to assist in the publishing and production of printed and electronic copies of papers presented at the conferences. Plant Protection Quarterly will continue to publish original basic and applied research papers on all aspects of plant protection, including research presented at state and special subject area forums and meetings. As always, we welcome papers from our subscribers and readers.

This issue

This issue contains two research papers, one review paper and an updated Style Guide for preparing papers for Plant Protection Quarterly. The first paper presents information on the cabbage-centre grub, Hellula hydralis Guenée indicating that this pest is not established in Tasmania despite frequent immigration from mainland Australia and the presence of suitable host plants in Tasmania (Hill 2012). Using innovative research that combines back air trajectory analysis with light trap data, the author demonstrates how the status of a pest in a region can be misconstrued if merely assessed by records of adult captures, such as those used in some databases.

The second research paper examines the fungi and phytophagus arthropods associated with Himalayan honeysuckle (Leycesteria formosa Wall.) in north-east Victoria (Adair et al. 2012). It illustrates that the two-spotted mite Tetranychus urticae Koch damages both foliage and reproductive structures of Himalayan honeysuckle and that it may have a role to play in the biological suppression of the species in natural ecosystems as an augmentative agent.

The review paper contains some of the first research to be published from the most recent round of the (Australian) National Weeds and Productivity Research Program, funded by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (Auld 2012). It reviews both Weed Risk Assessment and Weed Risk Management systems and has informed the update of the National Post-Border Weed Risk Management Protocol (Anon. 2006).

Finally, we recommend all authors the Style Guide for preparing papers for Plant Protection Quarterly. These documents, with additional detail and examples will also be available electronically in a new look Plant Protection Quarterly website in 2013.

We hope that you enjoy reading through this issue.

References

Adair, R.J., Cunnington, J. and Kulkarni, S. (2012). Fungi and phytophagus arthropods associated with Himalayan honeysuckle (Leycesteria formosa Wall.) in north-east Victoria. Plant Protection Quarterly 26, 101-4.

Allen Consulting Group (2012). ‘The economic, social and environmental impacts of the Cooperative Research Centres Program’. Report to the Australian Government Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education. (Canberra). 103 pp.

Anon. (2006). ‘HB 294:2006. National Post-Border Weed Risk Management Protocol.’ (Standards Australia, Sydney and Standards New Zealand, Wellington). 75 pp.

Auld, B.A. (2012). An Overview of Pre-Border Weed Risk Assessment and Post-Border Weed Risk Management Protocols. Plant Protection Quarterly 26, 105-11.

Campbell, A. (2012). Rethinking rural research in Australia. The Conversation 3 September 2012. http://theconversation.edu.au/rethinking-rural-research-in-australia-9048 (accessed 14 November 2012).

CAWS, Council of Australasian Weed Societies (2008). Proceedings of the Australasian Weeds Conference. http://www.caws.org.au/awc_index.php (accessed 14 Nov 2012).

Hill, L. (2012). Cabbage-centre grub, Hellula hydralis Guenée, not resident in Tasmania. Plant Protection Quarterly 26, 91-100.

First published online: September 15, 2012