AN extra ring of biosecurity protection is being thrown around the Australian melon industry for a year with hopes the lasting effects will go on for much longer.
With global trade and travel opening up, the threat of exotic pests and diseases entering Australia remains.
More than ever, growers are required to be vigilant in implementing proactive and preventative biosecurity measures to protect their livelihood and the industry.
The project is funded from joint melon industry levy funds, the project will work with growers and agronomists around Australia's melon regions to improve general biosecurity practices.
The project will also provide growers with an on-farm biosecurity toolkit with resources to boost farm hygiene, biosecurity and monitoring practices.
Extension workshops are also planned for each of the growing regions.
A surveillance component will aim to understand current levels of pest and disease monitoring and better educate growers on surveillance methods and the benefits of increasing on farm surveillance for exotic pests and diseases.
The project will also consider the melon industry's understanding of production and supply chain economics in the context of a biosecurity emergency response.
Melons Australia executive officer Johnathon Davey said melon producers continue to focus on all elements of on-farm biosecurity, including how reimbursement of growers during an exotic pest incursion may work.
"This project is extremely exciting in supporting us to get out and about to engage with growers about this critical preparation work for future biosecurity incursions, and also begin to consider options for industry to effectively capture production costs," Mr Davey said.
This project delivers key tools to enable melon growers to elevate early detection and positively position them to respond to threats to the industry.- Sarah Corcoran, CEO, Plant Health Australia
Melon grower levies also fund Melons Australia biosecurity officer Joanna Embry who will be supporting this project.
Ms Embry has worked in the melon industry to varying degrees since 1997 and has built relationships and experience with growers that will help to deliver the objectives of the project.
As the trusted coordinator of Australia's plant biosecurity system, PHA will manage and support the project on a national level.
PHA CEO Sarah Corcoran said the return on investment in prevention is higher than the economic return of ongoing management of a plant pest and disease.
"This project delivers key tools to enable melon growers to elevate early detection and positively position them to respond to threats to the industry," Ms Corcoran said.
Melons are produced right across Australia (with the exception of Tasmania and ACT) with at least 20 growing regions with about 200 growers producing in the order of 200,000 tonnes of melons annually.
The Australian melon industry production is valued at $150million (2021).
Grown all year round in Australia, varieties include seedless watermelons, rockmelon, honeydew and Piel de Sapo and other speciality melon varieties.
The melon industry exports to Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and United Arab Emirates, and is valued at $26.7 million in 2021, which experienced a 40 per cent reduction from 2020.
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