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Biosecurity threats ‘require similar measures to Covid-19 controls’

Image: Henry Burrows [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Flickr

Researcher outlines multilayered system to protect wine producers from major pest or disease outbreaks

The Covid-19 pandemic has “hammered home” the need for Australia’s wine industry to be prepared to deal with future biosecurity risks and invest in research to support preparedness, a leading agricultural scientist has said.

Craig Elliott, a plant biosecurity researcher with rural industry R&D corporations Wine Australia and Hort Innovation, suggested the pandemic had offered a valuable insight into the potential impacts of a major pest or disease outbreak.

“The last few months have been a steep learning curve for many people,” he said in a Wine Australia statement.

“We’ve seen the struggle to get ahead of Covid-19 in terms of getting resources and people in the right place at the right time; and developing a nationally consistent plan that manages the virus and its impact.”

Elliott said the impacts of a large biosecurity incident or a small localised event could be devastating for wine producers, taking “an emotional and financial toll”.

“The principle of ‘Arrive Clean, Leave Clean’ for everything and everyone who comes onto and leaves a property is something that has to become a habit and is the foundation of biosecurity—but there are a number of other areas that people need to look at to make a difference.”

He said wine producers needed to view biosecurity as a multilayered system that included national and state restrictions as well as property risk management.

“The more layers of protection, the more likely a threat will be detected and stopped before it wipes out your industry or your business…You see some properties with biosecurity signs up on gates, but we need to do more than this and back it up by checking and cleaning what is coming onto properties.”

Elliott said the pandemic had “hammered home the message that preparedness is key”.

“In the early days of an emergency the community needs reassurance that there is a well-thought-out plan to stop the spread and help those affected. This can be difficult in those early days when there can be many uncertainties and gaps in knowledge, and leaders have to be upfront about this while also explaining what is being done.”

Wine Australia and Hort Innovation are among 15 rural R&D corporations that are funded by grower levies and matching federal contributions to industry research.