Protecting plantations – keeping a step ahead of the pests

Forestry scientists are reducing the risk of pine pests reaching Queensland’s valuable pine plantations.

Almost 150,000 hectares of softwood plantations support Queensland’s forest product sales and exports. Timber producers must meet chain-of-custody certification standards by demonstrating the plantation resource is free from specific pests and diseases. The threat of new pests and diseases reaching plantations is, however, increasing.

Forestry researchers tackled two problems faced by the industry. Firstly, previous, broad-scale monitoring sometimes only detected pests after they were established. Secondly, although imported timber is inspected at port-of-entry points, the products may be opened some distance away, unmonitored. Both issues increase the risk that damaging, exotic pests reach softwood plantations.

In response, the researchers developed strategic, post-border urban surveillance systems to detect incursions of pine pests early enough to eradicate or contain them. High-risk sites were mapped, with detailed layers describing their proximity to commodity-handling facilities, tourist areas and the location of pine trees across urban Brisbane.  This spatial database supports an efficient, prioritised trapping and surveillance strategy for detecting exotic pests before they reach softwood plantations.

New protocols for assessing tree health and identifying exotic species were developed and a training program for biosecurity agencies, regional council staff and arborists increased awareness about pests, strengthening Queensland’s capacity for biosecurity preparedness.

The project is funded through the Queensland forest and timber industry research, development and extension framework. It contributes to the federally-funded pest-trapping programs at Queensland ports and to national, biosecurity efforts to respond to exotic forest pests.

For more information about forest pests and biosecurity visit Plant Health Australia