Australia equipped to pip plant thrips threat

Australia is taking steps to strengthen its plant biosecurity measures, with the release of a comprehensive analysis of a significant plant biosecurity risk to better inform future plant import conditions.

Acting Head of Biosecurity Plant Division with the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Robyn Cleland, said the final group pest risk analysis (PRA) for thrips and orthotospoviruses, plays an important part in managing the risk of these emerging plant pests arriving in Australia.

“Australia’s biosecurity system safeguards our environment and industries from pests and diseases, but it is important to continue looking at ways to strengthen the measures we have in place,” Dr Cleland said.

“Thrips are small insects that can cause significant damage to plants. They can transmit orthotospoviruses, which damage a wide range of fruit, vegetable, legume and ornamental crops.

“They could arrive in Australia on imported plant material and significantly impact our plant health, as well as the productivity and sustainability of our $9 billion horticulture industry.

“The final group PRA considered the biosecurity risks posed by thrips and the emerging risks posed by orthotospoviruses. We can now use that analysis to strengthen our plant biosecurity measures.

“When reviewing or developing new conditions for fresh fruit, vegetable, cut-flower and foliage imports, the PRA can be used to ensure those conditions effectively manage the risk of thrips arriving in Australia.

“This will help Australia maintain a high level of biosecurity protection against current and emerging plant biosecurity risks and safeguard our enviable plant health status.”

The PRA final report identified 79 thrips species and 27 orthotospoviruses as pests of quarantine concern for Australia. Over 34,000 thrips interceptions have been recorded on the plant import pathway by Australia over a 26 year period (1986–2012).

A key step in the department’s work to improve the effectiveness and consistency of the pest risk analysis (PRA) process was the development of the Group PRA.

A Group PRA considers the biosecurity risk posed by groups of pests across numerous import pathways and facilitates a ‘big picture’ understanding of the biosecurity risk profile of major pest groups.

The PRA for thrips and orthotospoviruses is the first Group PRA the department has released. It involved robust scientific analysis undertaken by the department and used 18 years’ worth of data from previous pest risk analysis’.

This group PRA is funded under the Australian Government’s Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper.

The final group PRA report is available on the department website.

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