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Ongoing project

Improving preparedness of the Australian horticultural sector to the threat potentially posed by Xylella fastidiosa (a severe biosecurity risk) (MT17006)

Key research provider: The Victorian Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions

What’s it all about?

This multi-industry investment will review and allow Australia to adopt world’s best practice methods for detecting and identifying strains of the Xylella fastidiosa bacteria, should it come to our shores. As well as developing state-of-the-art diagnostic tools, technologies and protocols to screen plant material entering the country and to support active surveillance programs, it will provide associated training to technical staff in diagnostic laboratories.

The project’s work will ultimately allow for quick and effective detection of what is considered to be the number one plant biosecurity threat to Australia and New Zealand, to facilitate a swift and sure response.

This project is focused on diagnostics and diagnostic capability, in preparation for an incursion of Xylella fastidiosa (Xf). The team aims to deliver the following outcomes:

  • Improved, rapid diagnostics for Xylella at the genus, species and subspecies level
  • Clear sampling guidelines for important hosts
  • In-field detection capability, ready for application by field officers
  • Validation of laboratory and field tests in an Australian environment
  • Harmonisation of testing protocols used across Australia and New Zealand via an updated National Diagnostic Protocol (NDP)
  • Ensuring that major node laboratories in Australia and New Zealand have the appropriate resources to test for Xf and are proficient in detection and identification protocols.

In year two of the program, the team reported progress across several areas:

  • Key project resources including cultures, infected plant material, DNA, genomic data and diagnostic targets have been acquired or generated, strengthening the team’s ability to design, evaluate, validate diagnostic protocols for the detection of Xf
  • Evaluation of qPCR assays for detection of Xf and its subspecies has resulted in testing recommendations to begin validation for the NDP
  • Generic isothermal tests for the detection of Xylella spp have been designed and identified via preliminary evaluation. Results indicate that four tests are highly specific to the Xylella
  • An ONT-MLST amplicon sequencing pilot study has generated some exiting results, with this technology to be explored further
  • In-field extraction procedures for use with LAMP assays were recommended and sampling advice was updated

Updates and project progress will continue to be shared with industry as available.


This project is a strategic levy investment in the Hort Innovation Apple and pear, Avocado, Citrus, Cherry, Dried Grape, Nursery, Olive, Prune, Raspberry and Blackberry, Strawberry, Summerfruit and Table Grape Funds.