EFFORTS to protect Australia's citrus industry from citrus canker have been boosted, in the form of a project to develop a scent lure so sniffer dogs could detect the disease.
The project was announced by minister for agriculture Bridget McKenzie and member for Mallee, Anne Webster at the Mildura Fruit Company on Monday.
Citrus canker is a serious bacterial disease that affects all citrus varieties causing fruit to fall to the ground before it ripens.
- Citrus Australia calls for tougher biosecurity hazard import penalties
- Citrus industry focuses on increasing exports in the future
- Technology will help lower citrus production costs
Ms McKenzie said the development of a scent lure for a plant pathogen was an Australian-first, and would help protect Australian citrus farmers from the damaging exotic disease.
"Citrus canker is a serious bacterial disease that affects oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit and other citrus varieties causing fruit to fall to the ground before it ripens and tree death," she said.
"Overseas it has caused heavy economic losses to citrus industries because of damage to trees, reduced fruit production, decreased access to export markets and increased cost of management.
"With a current incursion in the north of Australia on its way to being eradicated, it's a reminder that we need to stay vigilant because these threats are ever present."
Citrus Australia chief executive officer, Nathan Hancock, welcomed the announcement.
"The purpose of the dogs is to back up the great work the NT and WA Governments are doing in surveillance in citrus canker-affected regions of the NT and northern WA," Mr Hancock said.
"The dogs will provide assurance on top of ongoing work in those regions, providing growers with confidence there won't be another incursion in the short term, and giving our trading partners confidence we remain on top of this incursion.
Ms McKenzie said detector dogs would be trained with the scent lures by mid-2020.
The funding for the project is in addition to the $7.5 million the Federal Government has committed to the National Citrus Canker Response Program.
Dr Webster said the Murray Valley was the second largest citrus growing district in Australia, comprising 6580 hectares of citrus production.
"Preventing the spread of citrus canker is vital to protecting our valuable industry," Dr Webster said.
"Returning to country of freedom status will benefit all affected industries, including citrus growers in the Murray Valley, by negating potential trade impacts."