The United Nations has announced that 2020 will be the International Year of Plant Health, with a theme of ‘Protecting plants, protecting life’. Activities will occur around the world, including in Australia, which will underline the need for everyone to understand and take seriously their role in protecting Australia’s biosecurity.
“Australia’s plant industries contribute $30 billion to our economy and we enjoy a strong reputation for high quality, safe, ‘clean and green’ produce,” said Federal Minister for Agriculture Bridget McKenzie when announcing the campaign.
“Plant disease Xylella fastidiosa isn’t in Australia. It has no cure and has had a catastrophic impact overseas; it’s infected more than 200 million citrus trees in Brazil, destroyed one million olive trees in Italy and severely impacted the Californian grape sector causing annual losses in excess of US $100 million. We don’t want it here.
“We’re also working to keep brown marmorated stink bug out of Australia. It’s emerging as a major threat to horticultural industries across the world and is a clear risk to many of our horticulture industries here in Australia. It made its way into a single state in the United States in the early 1990s and is now in 44 states, not just hurting orchardists and horticulture producers but also affecting people when their homes are overrun by the bugs.”
Each year, plant diseases cost the global economy about US$220 billion and invasive insects cost about US$70 billion. Pests wipe out up to 40% of global food crops annually.
“The International Year of Plant Health is an opportunity to highlight that everyone should play their part in protecting our nation’s native and commercial plants from the threat of pests and diseases – from travellers coming to Australia, to farmers monitoring their crops or city dwellers who have a veggie patch,” Minister McKenzie said.