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Ongoing project

Improving on-farm surveillance strategies for tospoviruses and thrips to enhance the biosecurity of the nursery industry (NY19007)

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

What’s it all about?

This investment is developing accurate surveillance tools and strategies for the detection of tospoviruses and thrips, to enable rapid responses and reduce impacts in nursery production.

Once these tools have been delivered to industry, this investment will also facilitate the adoption of best management practices by assessing how project outcomes and practices can be incorporated into existing nursery industry management and biosecurity systems such as Biosecure HACCP.

Specifically, this project will:

  • Improve understanding of the prevalence and changing populations of all tospoviruses species and thrips vectors in nursery production region
  • Assess the genetic variability and seasonal population dynamics of tospoviruses and thrips in nursery production systems, including the impact and interaction of neighbouring landscapes
  • Develop smart surveillance diagnostic tools
  • Develop, in consultation with industry members, a workable surveillance strategy for detection of exotic tospoviruses in the nursery industry.

This information will be used to support nursery industry biosecurity more broadly, by informing surveillance strategies and management practices.

The project team has partnered with the largest wholesale plant nursery in Queensland to find ways to enhance its pest surveillance program. They will deliver training in taxonomic skills to the nursery to improve their identification of the major thrips species, firstly using traditional morphological methods but later using simple molecular tests. Once experimental protocols are refined, the protocols will be extended more widely within the greenlife industry. 

Thrips are important nursery pests because they cause direct feeding damage to plants but also transmit tospoviruses. Consequently, a monitoring program for tospoviruses has begun, and several perennial ornamental plants identified as reservoirs of infection, namely spider lily, bridal bouquet and hoya.

The project team were surprised to discover both a tospovirus and citrus leprosis virus C2 (CLV-C2) in a hoya plant.  This represents the first report of CLV-C2 in Australia, and the presence of a potentially damaging pathogen for the citrus industry. This result demonstrates how economically important pathogens can be spread within nursery plants. Finally, a new tospovirus has been discovered in a native ground orchid, bringing the total number of species of tospovirus in Australia to five. This discovery needs to be considered in the design of a monitoring system for tospoviruses.

Related levy funds

This project is a strategic levy investment in the Hort Innovation Nursery Fund