AGRICULTURE industries are adopting a heightened awareness of the potential threat of brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB).
Between September and April each year there is an increased risk of BMSB arriving in Australia, so enhanced seasonal measures are implemented to address the biosecurity risk.
Last month, the Queensland Farmers' Federation joined state Qld agriculture minister, Mark Furner, in calling on the federal government and other states to update the national preparedness strategy to deal with the BMSB.
The call came after successful Biosecurity Queensland surveillance and trapping operations in Lytton, Fisherman Islands and New Chum after the pest was discovered in Brisbane last summer.
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BMSB is becoming more established around the world.
QFF president Stuart Armitage said BMSB was a major agricultural pest in Europe, Asia and North America where it has attacked more than 300 plants and crops including corn, soybean, apples, grapes and peaches.
"Biosecurity incursions are one of Queensland agriculture's greatest business risks with exotic pests, diseases and weeds having a potentially crippling impact on plant and animal production systems across the state," Mr Armitage said.
"In 2018, more than 350,000 items of biosecurity concern were intercepted across the country. As Australia's frontline biosecurity state, it should therefore come as no surprise that Queensland had five biosecurity incursions in five years."
Noses to the ground
INCREASED efforts to prevent BMSB from entering have included the training of biosecurity detector dogs to identify the pest.
The Federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources head of biosecurity, Lyn O'Connell, said the department was working with the University of New England to train the dogs to detect the pest in sea cargo.
"Detector dogs are a pivotal frontline defence against pests and diseases, intercepting around 60,000 biosecurity risk items at Australia's international airports and mail centres in 2018," Ms O'Connell said.
"We have strong measures in place offshore and at the border to manage the risk of this pest arriving here and we'll soon have the best noses in the business on the job to enhance our efforts.
"In Brisbane, we are currently trialling the use of detector dogs for the screening of imported cars. This is a first for biosecurity in Australia.
"As BMSB hitchhike in sea cargo, the introduction of the dogs is another way that we can detect and stop this pest in its tracks.
"It is an example of how we can expand our existing detector dog capabilities to address current or emerging biosecurity risks."
Further research will now be undertaken to support the training of new and existing detector dogs.
This will also allow the department to conduct rapid response training for existing dogs to help manage other seasonal or emerging pest and disease risks.
Call for ideas
MS O'Connell also said grants of up to $1 million are available through the Australian Government's Business Research and Innovation Initiative (BRII) to help improve the country's biosecurity system.
"We work hard to improve our biosecurity system, but it is important to recognise that there are businesses out there that could have valuable ideas to contribute," Ms O'Connell said.
"Through this initiative, we are looking for solutions to enhance the way we prevent, detect and manage hitchhiking pests on or in shipping containers.
"The volume of cargo entering Australia is expected to double between 2015 and 2030, which means biosecurity risks will increase.
"Inspecting shipping containers can also be challenging, time-consuming and costly, so it is important to look at ways that we can work better.
"Some of the themes that could be considered are the use of robotics, drones, scanning technology, artificial intelligence, machine learning or automation."
Under a two-step process, businesses can submit proposals for ideas that address the challenges.
Successful applicants will receive grants of up to $100,000 to develop ideas and test feasibility over three months.
The most successful ideas may be eligible for a further grant of up to $1 million to develop a prototype or proof of concept over the following 18 months.
Grant applications close on April 17, 2019.