The Plant Innovation Centre (PIC) is a world-class research, development, and extension (RD&E) facility. By providing innovative solutions that detect, identify and manage plant pests, our team helps strengthen Australia’s biosecurity.
The PIC team have significant scientific expertise and experience in areas such as:
- plant pathology
- molecular biology
The Plant Innovation Centre supports Honours and higher-degree (MSc/PhD) students with generous scholarships, support for travel and development, opportunities to work in state-of-the-art facilities and build networks with a highly sought-after employer.
The PIC team are a highly motivated group of scientists who care about protecting our environment and agricultural industries from exotic pests and diseases. If you’re passionate about science, get in touch with us today.
Find out more about our scholarships for honours, masters and PhD students.
We also offer placements for undergraduates via the University Vacation Employment Program (UVEP).
Improve Post Entry Quarantine diagnostics using High throughput sequencing (Hts)
Working with government, industry, and university partners we successfully implemented Hts for testing high-risk plants in December 2022. Hts replaces hundreds of individual tests with a single test to detect all viruses at once. This results in cheaper, faster, safer plant imports.
Alternative glyphosate herbicides
We are trialling alternative herbicides to replace glyphosate as a treatment for imported cut-flowers. This will give exporting countries greater options to help facilitate trade.
MinION: Faster accurate border diagnostics
Using nanopore sequencing the PIC team is following on from our success using MinION, which rapidly identified unknown insects, by applying this technology to identify unknown seeds. This means imported goods can be cleared and released from biosecurity control much faster.
Developing rapid, accurate and field deployable diagnostics (CRISPR-Cas)
CRISPR is a gene-editing tool that we have demonstrated can be used to detect Xylella (Australia’s #1 priority plant pest). We are refining this technology to use it in the field.
Improved molecular diagnostics to detect exotic bee mites
A partnership project between PIC and CSIRO aims to improve our ability to detect exotic mites in honeybees using molecular diagnostic tools. This will improve our ability to rapidly respond to detections of exotic mites.
Investigating alternate treatments to devitalise seeds
A partnership project with Steritech to investigate the potential of electron beam (E-beam) irradiation to treat commodities such as seeds, grains, and cut-flowers. Using e-beam instead of other treatments (such as chemicals, heat or steam) will result in faster, cheaper, safer imports.
Lab-on-a-chip assay for the rapid detection of multiple plant viruses
A partnership project with RMIT University to trial the use of nanotechnology to detect priority plant pests. If successful, this technology could be adapted as a cutting-edge, highly-portable diagnostic tool allowing faster detections and reducing our reliance on expensive laboratories.
Novel disinfestation strategies as alternatives to methyl bromide (MB)
A partnership project with the Victorian Strawberry Industry Certification Authority to trial methyl iodide and microwaves as alternatives to MB as a fumigant treatment. MB is a potent greenhouse depleting gas and banned in many countries. An alternative treatment will help Australian trade and reduce our environmental impact.
Improved diagnostics for exotic fungal pathogens affecting commercial mushroom production
A partnership project with Agriculture Victoria to develop molecular diagnostic tools to detect and identify mushroom pathogens. These pathogens currently take weeks to detect; molecular tools will achieve this in hours.
Rapid detection of plant disease by microneedle patch array
A partnership project with the University of Southern Queensland to trial microneedles as a rapid and reliable method to detect plant pests. If successful, microneedles could be fused to CRISPR and/or lab-on-a-chip technology to improve our ability to accurately and quickly detect dangerous pests and pathogens.
Development of a cost-effective method using third-generation sequencing to detect pests in-planta
PhD project collaboration with the University of the Sunshine Coast to use MinION technology to rapidly detect and identify exotic viruses in imported seeds. This technology will make seed imports cheaper and safer.
Rapid identification of unknown insects at the border using MinION sequencing
Using nanopore sequencing, the PIC team developed new methods to identify unknown insects in hours, compared to days. This means goods can be cleared and released from biosecurity control much faster.
Development of new tests for begomoviruses
Begomoviruses are responsible for considerable economic damage to many important agricultural crops. We developed diagnostic tests to more accurately detect newly emerging begomovirus risks.
Verification of imported cut flowers using HPLC-Mass spec
Imported cut flowers are treated off-shore to manage biosecurity risk. We developed and evaluated a new test to verify that treatments were being conducted as required.
Evolution of Plant Virus Diagnostics used in Australian PEQ ‘Plants’ July 2021
A Rapid and Cost-Effective Identification of Invertebrate Pests at the Borders Using MinION Sequencing of DNA Barcodes ‘Genes’ July 2021
Complete genome sequence of a novel potyvirus infecting Miscanthus sinensis ‘Archives of Virology’ November 2021
Side-by-Side Comparison of Post-Entry Quarantine and High Throughput Sequencing Methods for Virus and Viroid Diagnosis ‘Biology’ February 2022
Implementation of GA-VirReport; A Web-based Bioinformatics Toolkit for Post-Entry Quarantine screening of Virus and Viroids in Plants ‘Viruses’ July 2022
Rapid, accurate and field deployable detection of Xylella fastidiosa using LAMP-CRISPR-Cas12a integrated assay (In press ‘Phytopathology’)
Science and Surveillance Group (SSG) DAFF
STUDENT ENGAGEMENT PARTNERS