Forest and Wood Products Australia joins cross-industry collaboration for fast, accurate detection of pests: Launch of WoodChat Episode 12

In a unique collaboration, Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA) has joined forces with other Australian agriculture and horticulture industries to develop exciting new diagnostic technology for crop protection.

The move has the potential to change and speed up the detection of airborne pests and diseases, ultimately boosting productivity and profitability for the forestry industry.

In the latest episode of FWPA’s WoodChat podcast series, listeners will hear about the revolutionary iMapPESTS: Sentinel Surveillance program. The knowledge generated will allow industry decision makers to take the necessary action to mitigate the negative impacts of these threats on forestry and other sectors.

The five-year research program is being led by Horticulture Innovation Australia, with funding from the Australian government and 16 partner organisations, including FWPA.

A key feature of the initiative is the ‘sentinel’, a mobile surveillance unit offering optimal sampling of fungal spores and insects, using various high-tech sampling equipment. A prototype sentinel was recently launched in South Australia, with seven similar devices to follow.

Samples collected by the sentinels will be sent to various partner laboratories for the identification of target pests and diseases. Presence and abundance of organisms detected will be overlaid with weather data captured by the sentinel at the time of sampling, to provide a detailed picture of the conditions and potential threat.

Jodie Mason, Forest Research Manager at FWPA said iMapPESTS brings together research scientists, government representatives and all plant-based Rural Research and Development Corporations (RDCs).
“The overall long-term goal is to aid improved decision making amongst forest managers, through the provision of accurate and rapid pest and disease dynamic information,” Ms. Mason said.

“It’s the first time all plant-based RDCs have come together in this formal way, to develop smarter air-sampling techniques and diagnostics that will benefit many agricultural industries, including forestry.
“Once collected and analysed, the data can be used by industry to guide more targeted surveillance efforts and pest control activities. It could also facilitate a coordinated cross-sectoral response to biosecurity efforts during future exotic pest and disease incursions,” Ms. Mason said.

WoodChat hosts also speak to Jessica Holliday, R&D Manager at Horticulture Innovation Australia, Rohan Kimber, Research Scientist at the South Australian Research and Development Institute, and Conrad Trollip, Agriculture Victoria PhD candidate.

The project was made possible thanks to a grant under the Australian Government’s Rural R&D for Profit program, which enables nationally coordinated, strategic research that delivers real outcomes for Australian producers.

This episode is part of the second series of the WoodChat podcast, following topics including how virtual reality is being used to drive forestry into the future, initiatives to engage the future leaders of the industry, and how Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) tracking is being used to improve the on-site processes associated with prefabricated timber.

WoodChat represents FWPA’s ongoing commitment to engaging ways of communicating news and innovations to the industry and beyond. Each episode includes in-depth conversations with experts on recent discoveries and current initiatives.

You can listen to WoodChat on SoundCloud and iTunes.


Media enquiries

Eileen Newbury, National Marketing and Communications Manager, FWPA

Mobile:             0419 313 163
Direct:              (03) 9927 3212