Federal government commit toward training dogs to detect citrus canker disease

KEEP CANKER AWAY: Best Play's Ritchie Freestone picking some oranges at the orchid. Photo: Matt Welch.
KEEP CANKER AWAY: Best Play's Ritchie Freestone picking some oranges at the orchid. Photo: Matt Welch.

A Murraylands citrus grower has praised a federal government commitment of $265,000 toward training dogs in the Northern Territory to detect citrus canker disease.

Northern Australia poses a high-risk pathway for exotic pests and diseases like citrus canker that threaten agriculture productivity, exports, and the environment.

Mypolonga based Best Play's, Graham Wynne said it's an excellent idea if it's successful.

"It'll be fantastic if they can get it to work," Mr Wynne said.

"It's a serious disease and I'm sure if they're putting the funding up, things are looking in the right direction."

Canker disease if infected can potentially bring a grower and an industry to a grinding stop.

"It seriously affects the production of what the tree can produce. I believe it can also kill the tree," Mr Wynne said.

"There was an outbreak in Queensland around 10 years ago and they had to completely bulldoze the property, burn it and then they had a period of time where they couldn't replant. It's a very serious disease."

Member for Barker, Tony Pasin said the training program uses synthetic compounds that mimic the scent of plants infected with the disease and has been showing successful results with one dog demonstrating a 96 per cent accuracy rate.

"It shows how effective detector dogs can be in protecting our biosecurity," Mr Pasin said.

"In this case, by effectively stopping canker in the Northern Territory we can help protect our citrus industry in the South.

"Citrus canker is a serious bacterial disease of citrus with the potential to devastate a healthy citrus industry."

The funding has been provided through the Australian Government's Immediate Assistance Fund that aims to assist state and territory governments and industry to rapidly respond to, or prepare for, significant exotic pest and disease incursions.

Citrus canker was successfully eradicated from Australia in 2020 following its detection in NT and WA in 2017.

"Citrus in the Murraylands and Riverland is one of the most significant horticultural crops in South Australia and accounts for around 20 per cent of Australia's citrus plantings," Mr Pasin said.

"With a farm gate value of around $136m, the industry is a major export earner and employer in the Riverland and as such it's vitally important that its protected from pests."

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