Archive for the ‘Emerging/invasive pests’ Category


2 September 2012 Last updated at 21:27 ET
By Mark Kinver
Environment reporter, BBC News

trees _62580248_3892669680_bcd8e914ba_b


UK trees are facing an “unprecedented level of threat” from pests and diseases, the Forestry Commission has warned.


All species are vulnerable to potential attacks – from ecologically vital oaks to non-native ornamental species, such as lawson cypresses.

The biggest risk, it warns, comes from non-native organisms, which – in their natural range – are kept in check by natural predators and environmental conditions.

However, if they are able to become established in the UK’s natural environment then there are often no natural controls to curb their spread, resulting in a potentially devastating impact on the landscape.

In October 2011, UK Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman launched the Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Action Plan, warning that millions of trees could be lost in the next few years unless urgent action was taken.

The Commission recently published biosecurity guidance, offering advice on steps that can be taken to avoid accidentally spreading damaging organisms on clothes, footwear, vehicles, etc.

“The fact that we are an island has helped us, because we are fairly impoverished compared with the European mainland,” explained Hugh Evans, head of Forest Research in Wales.

“So even the 20 miles of water is enough to protect us from the pests that are quite dangerous on the mainland.”

But our relative isolation has come at a cost, he warned.

“If pests do get through, then they arrive without the spectrum of natural enemies and that is one element that can make the effect within the arrival country much worse than in the country of origin.”

Growing trade

Richard McIntosh from Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera) says the growing volume of international trade is one reason for concern.

“Trade is becoming increasingly global, and there is an ever-widening diversity of plants and plant material being traded around the world,” he told BBC News.

“There are examples of where pests or pathogens have been introduced, and it is very difficult to respond to them once they are within the EU.

“Prevention is much better than cure but identifying all of the risks is not always the easiest thing to do.”

Probably the most widely publicised pathogen is Phytophthora ramorum, a fungal organism which was suspected of being introduced to these shores via the plant trade. There is no treatment; infected trees have to be felled and removed from the natural environment.

Although it had been present at low levels in the UK for a number of years, in 2009 there was a sudden change in the pathogen’s behaviour. It was recorded infecting and killing the commercially important Japanese larch trees in South-West England.

It was the first time in the world that P. ramorum had been found on a species of conifer. It has since been recorded affecting larch trees at sites in all four UK nations.

John Morgan, head of the Forestry Commission’s Plant Health Service observed: “We are still are pursuing a policy of reducing the level of the disease so then it does not spread further.

“If, over a number of years of felling, we can reduce its spread we can then preserve what we have left in terms of larch in forests.”

Dr Morgan added that the disease would not be eradicated: “Once something like that is established then we are purely looking at a policy of containment.

P. ramorum is definitely in the realms of containment strategies. By the time it was discovered in larches, it was too late.”

Experts say the symptoms to look out for on larch trees include dead and partially flushed trees present in groups, patches or distributed throughout a stand. An affected tree’s crown and branches die back, and there is a distinctive yellowing or ginger colour beneath the bark.

Unwelcomed guests

Another pest that was introduced to the UK as a result of human activity was the great spruce bark beetle.

bark beetle

Adult great spruce bark beetle (Image: Forestry Commission)


Introducing a natural predator proved to be an effective control of the great spruce bark beetle


“It clearly came into this country via wood that had not been debarked properly,” said Prof Evans.

“What was interesting – and I think this is [a] somewhat typical story – is that although we found it in 1982, our subsequent research found that it had been in the country at least 10 years prior to that.”

The beetle breeds under the bark and destroys the cambium (a layer of growing tissue that produces new cells to carry water, sugars and nutrients around the tree). This weakens the tree, and in most extreme cases, the damage can kill the tree.

As part of their research, Prof Evans said scientists quickly identified a possible “bio-control” option. They introduced a natural predator – another species of beetle called Rhizophagus grandis.

“We were able to bring that beetle in to the country; we got the very first licence for the release of a non-native species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

“It proved to be incredibly successful,” he told BBC News.

“[The great spruce bark beetle] did kill quite a few trees, but after the predator was introduced and we continued to monitor it for a few years, its population has dropped to a relatively low level. It is still spreading, but the predator seems to be following it.”

Preventing pests

Dr Morgan said UK control measures involved four stages.

Once a pest or disease becomes established, it becomes virtually impossible to eradicate it
“We try to prevent pest and diseases entering the country; then, if they have arrived, we switch to a policy of eradication to try and stop them becoming established,” he said.

“If they do become established then we try and follow a policy of containment which is to try and slow or stop the spread of the pest.

Finally, if all previous three efforts have failed then we operate a way that we can live with the particular pest or disease.”

There are a number of ways that scientists are able track the global or regional spread of a pest or pathogen, such as the EU Plant Health Directive that requires nations to report new outbreaks or new pathogens.

Another way data is shared among researchers is via bodies such as the European Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization and the International Plant Protection Convention.

“Both of these organisations have notification systems where countries are able to report developments that might be of wider interest,” revealed Fera’s Richard McIntosh.

“We monitor that sort of intelligence, together with information that might be coming out via publications, and also what we are finding – such as what we are intercepting at the national borders.”

Mr McIntosh said this information is used to produce a document known as a Pest Risk Analysis (PRA), which looks at the risks, possible impacts and control of each organism within a UK context.

Wider impact

Andrew Sharkey, head of woodland management for the Woodland Trust, said the impact of pests and diseases often had ramifications that were felt beyond the individual trees that were infected.

Experts recommend a “watching brief” for UK oaks amid concern of a Dutch elm disease-like outbreak
“Two of our sites have been affected [Phytophthora ramorum]… so we had to fell the larch on those sites,” he said.

“We are comfortable with this because it is good practice but it means that it has disrupted all of the site plans for those sites.

“The larches on one of the sites were on what we call ‘planted ancient woodlands’, which we were trying to restore back to native woodlands.

“This has an immediate impact on our biodiversity work and planning work.”

In 2011, Natural England’s Keith Kirby warned that the future well-being of the UK’s oak trees was at a crossroads because of the potential threat from a disease known as Acute Oak Decline (AOD), which experts warned could be as devastating to the treescape as Dutch elm disease.

Dr Kirby told BBC News that research was helping shed more light on dynamics of the mysterious disease.

“We are becoming more and more certain that it is basically a bacterial issue, and a beetle is involved in its spread. It appears that the problem is also exacerbated if the tree is under stress,” he said.

“But we are not that much further along in terms of knowing exactly how abundant or widespread it is.

“At the moment, it does not look as if it has gone beyond the East Midlands and southern England area, where most of the records have come from.”

As one of the UK’s leading woodland ecologists, Dr Kirby said people had to be philosophical about the fact that the composition of woodlands were going to change.

“We cannot attempt to maintain the mixtures that existed in the past,” he observed. “We have to accept that there will be change, and manage the dynamic situation.

“If you have got a changing environment, you cannot expect the communities and assemblages of species of past environments to survive.”

Related Stories

Pest and disease threats to UK trees 27 OCTOBER 2012, SCIENCE & ENVIRONMENT
UK oaks’ future ‘at crossroads’ 14 SEPTEMBER 2011, SCIENCE & ENVIRONMENT
New funds to tackle tree diseases 20 OCTOBER 2011, SCIENCE & ENVIRONMENT
Oak disease ‘threatens landscape’ 28 APRIL 2010, SCIENCE & ENVIRONMENT
DNA boost in tree killer battle 21 APRIL 2010, SCIENCE & ENVIRONMENT
Hunt to stop tree-killing beetle 01 APRIL 2012, UK
The decline of the English elm tree 21 AUGUST 2010, NEWSNIGHT





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Plant Health Hawaii

Sites: IBIS PH
Publish date: Sat 2014-Oct-18
Discovery date: Sun 2014-Oct-19
Author: Janelle
Channel: Industry
Text (summary):
HONOLULU — One live adult coconut rhinoceros beetle (CRB) has been found near the Diamond Head Lookout on Oahu’s south shore. The lone CRB was found yesterday by CRB crews checking survey traps. This is the first time that a CRB has been found east of the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPH-H) 6-mile zone where the CRB were initially found in December 2013. A second two-mile buffer zone was created in the Campbell Industrial Park area after a CRB was found in a survey trap in July 2014. A third two-mile buffer zone is being established around the Diamond Head Lookout.

Beginning next week traps will be deployed in higher density in the new buffer zone. Additional surveys for breeding sites and damage to coconut trees will also be conducted.

“The detection of this beetle on Diamond Head is of great concern,” said Scott Enright, chairperson of the Board of Agriculture. “Our crews will step up activities in that area and ask residents to survey their palm trees and also check any mulch piles which may serve as a reservoir for the beetles.”

- See more at: http://planthealth.org/article/coconut-rhinoceros-beetle-found-diamond-head#sthash.xsS1QQqg.dpuf

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From: EurekAlert

Contact: David Orenstein
Brown University

iceplant 79961_rel
IMAGE: An iceplant, from a region of high diversity in South Africa, is overtopping and killing a native shrub on the New Zealand coast, a region with far less diversity.



PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Dov Sax of Brown University and Jason Fridley of Syracuse University aren’t proposing a novel idea to explain species invasiveness. In fact, Charles Darwin articulated it first. What’s new about Sax and Fridley’s “Evolutionary Imbalance Hypothesis” (EIH) is that they’ve tested it using quantifiable evidence and report in Global Ecology and Biogeography that the EIH works well.

The EIH idea is this: Species from regions with deep and diverse evolutionary histories are more likely to become successful invaders in regions with less deep, less diverse evolutionary histories. To predict the probability of invasiveness, ecologists can quantify the imbalance between the evolutionary histories of “donor” and “recipient” regions as Sax and Fridley demonstrate in several examples.

Darwin’s original insight was that the more challenges a region’s species have faced in their evolution, the more robust they’ll be in new environments.

“As natural selection acts by competition, it adapts the inhabitants of each country only in relation to the degree of perfection of their associates,” Darwin wrote in 1859. Better tested species, such as those from larger regions, he reasoned, have “consequently been advanced through natural selection and competition to a higher stage of perfection or dominating power.”

To Sax and Fridley the explanatory power of EIH suggests that when analyzing invasiveness, ecologists should add historical evolutionary imbalance to the other factors they consider.

“Invasion biology is well-studied now, but this is never listed there even though Darwin basically spelled it out,” said Sax, associate of ecology and evolutionary biology. “It certainly hasn’t been tested before. We think this is a really important part of the story.”

Evidence for EIH

Advancing Darwin’s insight from idea to hypothesis required determining a way to test it against measurable evidence. The ideal data would encapsulate a region’s population size and diversity, relative environmental stability and habitat age, and the intensity of competition. Sax and Fridley found a suitable proxy: “phylogenetic diversity” (PD), an index of how many unique lineages have developed in a region over the time of their evolution.

“All else equal, our expectation is that biotas represented by lineages of greater number or longer evolutionary history should be more likely to have produced a more optimal solution to a given environmental problem, and it is this regional disparity, approximated by PD, that allows predictions of global invasion patterns,” they wrote.

With a candidate measure, they put EIH to the test.

Using detailed databases on plant species in 35 regions of the world, they looked at the relative success of those species’ invasiveness in three well-documented destinations: Eastern North America, the Czech Republic, and New Zealand.

They found that in all three regions, the higher the PD of a species’ native region, the more likely it was to become invasive in its new home. The size of the effect varied among the three regions, which have different evolutionary histories, but it was statistically clear that plants forged in rough neighborhoods were better able to bully their way into a new region than those from evolutionarily more “naive” areas.

Sax and Fridley conducted another test of the EIH in animals by looking at cases where marine animals were suddenly able to mix after they became united by canals. The EIH predicts that an imbalance of evolutionary robustness between the sides, would allow a species-rich region to dominate a less diverse one on the other side of the canal by even more than a mere random mixing would suggest.

The idea has a paleontological precedent. When the Bering land bridge became the Bering Strait, it offered marine mollusks a new polar path between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Previous research has shown that more kinds of mollusks successfully migrated from the diverse Pacific to the less diverse Atlantic than vice-versa, and by more so than by their relative abundance.

In the new paper, Sax and Fridley examined what has happened since the openings of the Suez Canal in Egypt, the Erie Canal in New York, and the Panama Canal. The vastly greater evolutionary diversity in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean compared to the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic led to an overwhelming flow of species north through the Suez.

But evolutionary imbalances across the Erie and Panama Canals were fairly small (the Panama canal connects freshwater drainages of the Atlantic and Pacific that were much more ecologically similar than the oceans) so as EIH again predicts, there was a more even balance of cross-canal species invasions.

Applicable predictions

Sax and Fridley acknowledge in the paper that the EIH does not singlehandedly predict the success of individual species in specific invasions. Instead it allows for ecosystem managers to assess a relative invasiveness risk based on the evolutionary history of their ecosystem and that of other regions. Take, for instance, a wildlife official in a historically isolated ecosystem such as an island.

“They already know to be worried, but this would suggest they should be more worried about imports from some parts of the world than others,” Sax said.

Not all invasions are bad, Sax noted. Newcomers can provide some ecosystem services — such as erosion control — more capably if they can become established. The EIH can help in assessments of whether a new wave of potential invasion is likely to change the way an ecosystem will provide its services, for better or worse.

“It might help to explain why non-natives in some cases might improve ecosystem functioning,” Sax said.

But perhaps Darwin already knew all that.


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Muniappan headshot


Muni Muniappan wins award for work in tropical agriculture


Saving the papaya industry in southern India. Discovering an invasive species in Senegal and Nepal. Connecting researchers in developing countries. These are some of the accomplishments of entomologist Rangaswamy “Muni” Muniappan that caught the attention of the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development and that won him the organization’s 2014 award for scientific excellence.

Muniappan received the BIFAD Award for Scientific Excellence today in Des Moines, Iowa. It is presented each year by the presidentially appointed body that governs U.S. foreign assistance in agriculture.

Muniappan is director of the Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab, a venture that works in developing countries to achieve three vital aims: minimize crop losses, increase farmer income, and decrease pesticide use. Muniappan, a longtime expert in the study of insects that benefit or harm humans, leads a multimillion dollar research portfolio of projects that includes partners from 16 American universities and 51 overseas organizations.

Muniappan discovered the papaya mealybug in Asia and helped employ biological control to eradicate it, which restored the livelihoods of thousands of farmers on the Asian subcontinent. This translated to an economic benefit of more than $1 billion over five years, according to a study published in the Journal of Crop Protection.

His discovery of the tomato leafminer (Tuta absoluta) in Senegal allowed experts to be warned so that preventive biological control measures could be taken for a pest that likely threatens all sub-Saharan tomato farmers.

Muniappan has created incentives for scientists to work together across national boundaries. He recently brought together scientists from South Asia and Central America in a conference on invasive species in Senegal.

Muniappan’s achievements also include control of such pests as the pink hibiscus mealybug, the fruit-piercing moth, the red coconut scale, the banana weevil, and the Asian cycad scale. He has worked to control weeds including the Siam weed, lantana, and the ivy gourd. He has been instrumental in establishing working groups for the weeds chromolaena and parthenium within the International Organization for Biological Control.

Muniappan’s career includes 36 years spent in Guam; a stint as a Fulbright Research Scholar in India; a UN Food and Agriculture Organization consultant in the Maldives, Palau, and Vanuatu; and a visiting professorship at the University of Guyana.

An honorary member of the International Organization for Biological Control since 2010, Muniappan has published journal articles in the Journal of Economic Entomology and Annals of the Entomological Society of America.

Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the innovation lab is managed by Virginia Tech’s Office of International Research, Education, and Development.

Related articles:
1. Speckled beetle key to saving crops in Ethiopia
2. Halting crop destruction in India saves up to $309 million
3. Virginia Tech research program confirms presence of invasive insect in Senegal
4. Virginia Tech entomologist helps Asian farmers fend off papaya mealybug



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It is a menace from Asia that over the past two decades has ravaged tens of thousands of trees in several states. But after being wiped out in New Jersey, it seemed to be in retreat in New York thanks to a warlike response from federal and state governments. It was gone from Staten Island and Manhattan, and the battle against it was tilting toward eradication in Queens, in Brooklyn and on Long Island.

That was until Charlie Crimi spotted one in his Long Island backyard — an Asian longhorned beetle.

“I didn’t really know what it was,” Crimi said of the large, white polka-dot, shiny black bug with long, wavy antennas that he saw in the summer of 2013. But after some Internet research, Crimi, 54, realized he had seen the notorious insect equivalent of Jesse James. He emailed a photo of the bug to a state forestry worker and received confirmation that what he had seen was, in fact, an Asian longhorned beetle.

“We were very disappointed,” said Joe Morrissey, a spokesman for the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. “It was a setback after many years of gains.”

Indeed, Crimi’s discovery alerted officials that the beetle had migrated to a new part of Long Island and had spread to hundreds of trees. Instead of declaring the bug “eradicated” as planned, they doubled to 50 square miles the amount of land labeled quarantined where trees would have to be inspected.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the state’s Agriculture Department have boosted staffing to 119 people to track, kill and eradicate the beetle from its remaining strongholds in Brooklyn, in Queens and on Long Island.

This fall, workers will start removing 4,500 trees along the Southern State Parkway in western Suffolk County to prevent further spread of the beetle. Removing the trees the beetle likes to attack — including maple, willow and birch — eliminates the insect’s habitat.

Global trade has made it easier for invasive species to cross borders. A decade ago, researchers at Cornell University determined that invasive species such as the longhorned beetle, the lionfish and the Asian carp cost the U.S. more than $137 billion per year, a figure that is undoubtedly higher today.

Scientists believe Asian longhorned beetles arrived in the 1980s as stowaways on ships from China before federal regulations required that solid wood packing material be fumigated and heat-treated. The beetle may have arrived on Long Island in a shipment of sewer pipe equipment.

The adult beetles lay eggs (sometimes dozens) just under the bark of a tree. The larvae grow inside the tree all winter, turning the inside of the tree into a soggy mush and leaving its vascular system to rot as it burrows out, making exit holes that leave the tree looking as if it were machine-gunned.

In the past two decades, the beetles have shown up in parts of Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Ohio. They have killed about 80,000 trees in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and could kill millions if left unchecked. That is bad news for bird habitats, parks, gardeners, sawmills and industries such as maple syrup producers in the Northeast.

Since 1997, the federal government has spent over $236 million to combat the beetle in New York alone. New York state has spent millions as well.

“Our primary focus is preventing the spread of this invasive species to the upstate region,” Morrissey said. “If it spreads to the forested areas in New York, eradication of this beetle would become much more difficult.”

One promising facet of the fight is that adults are not good fliers and tend to stay in a confined area during their yearlong life. And because the larvae take an entire winter to incubate inside a tree trunk, the reproductive progress of the bug can be halted by removing an infested tree.

Joseph Gittleman, 64, leads the New York eradication program from an unmarked office in a strip mall in Amityville, New York, next to an acupuncture clinic. Shades are drawn on the windows and one door features a 4-by-6-inch white sign with the letters “USDA” typed in black. Gittleman works for the department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Inside, he shows visitors past dozens of messy cubicles to a conference room with maps and posters on all sides. He points out lines and dots on maps that reveal how the beetle has spread to new areas of Long Island in the past year. If it was not for the effort by the federal and state governments, he said, the beetle would be “running rampant and out of control,” migrating to every town on Long Island where host trees are present.

Meanwhile, in the quarantine area, Gittleman’s dozens of inspectors and tree-climbing crews canvass neighborhoods, cemeteries and tree-covered areas of Farmingdale, New York, Amityville and other places scouring for the bugs. Specialists at the Amityville office enter each target tree, infected tree and inspected tree into digital maps and databases.

Already, they have found hundreds of infested trees along a lush green space of the Southern State Parkway and in a bucolic cemetery row in Farmingdale. “We’re without question the hardest one hit,” said Randy VanYahres, director of planning and development for Catholic Cemeteries, which oversees St. Charles/Resurrection. He said the cemetery has lost more than 80 trees so far.

Meanwhile, a mile or so away in West Babylon, Crimi keeps a meticulous lawn. He has not seen any more beetles. “My deepest regret was not catching it,” he said. “I was just not prepared. I’m kind of embarrassed about that. If I do find another one, I’ll keep it.”

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fire antWritten by
Pacific Daily News


The U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service is taking the little fire ant infestation on Guam seriously and has recently awarded a $50,000 grant to Dr. Ross Miller of the University of Guam Entomology Lab. He is teaming up with the Department of Agriculture (DOA) to implement control procedures for Wasmannia auropunctata, the scientific name for little fire ant (LFA).

“The Department of Agriculture has already begun LFA control efforts and this grant will allow our lab to offer technical expertise and assistance in pre and post treatment surveys as well as the actual control of the ants,” said Miller.

Miller’s team is conducting a detailed sampling for LFA in two areas that DOA has already been treating with pesticides including Tango™, an insect growth regulator. “We expect the impact of the pesticides to be rapid, but we need to sample the areas multiple times for 2 years without finding LFA to say they are truly gone. We expect to demonstrate that these ants can be controlled, which is why ongoing funding is crucial,” said Miller.

If residents have not yet been affected by LFA, they may soon be without these control efforts. Little fire ants have established colonies in many areas throughout the island. It is important that people do not transport soil, plants, or plant parts that may be infested with LFA.

The little fire ant is listed by the Global Invasive Species Database as one of the top 100 worst invasive species worldwide and is considered the greatest invasive ant threat to the Pacific region. They deliver a very painful sting causing an extremely itchy rash. Guam has already had one incident of a child needing medical treatment after being stung by LFA.

Guam Department of Agriculture and University of Guam personnel continue their collaborative efforts to protect the island’s natural environment from the devastating effects of invasive species. It takes everyone on the island to do his or her part in controlling an invasive insect like the little fire ant.

For more information on LFA, please visit http://www.littlefireants.com. To report sightings of LFA or any other invasive species, please call 475-PEST (7378)

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Virus could be ‘game changer’ for $50m NT watermelon industry By Lyndon Keane Sept. 18, 2014, 9 a.m.

A SUSPECTED case of a virus that could decimate the Northern Territory’s $50 million watermelon industry has been detected on a commercial farm south of Katherine.

The virus, cucumber green mottle mosaic virus, has the potential to have major impacts on watermelon yields and fruit quality, and can also affect other crops, including cucumber and squash.

Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries Biosecurity and Product Integrity Group director Dr Andrew Tomkins said every watermelon farm in the NT was being examined to determine how widespread the problem was.

“What we’re trying to do at the moment is to find out how widespread it is,” Dr Tomkins said.

“We’re trying to survey all the melon farms in the NT, which span from Darwin to about Ti Tree.

“We can only go by reports but there are about five to seven strains of the virus, so different strains can affect different hosts.

“We’ve got to clarify which strain we’ve got.”

According to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, the NT is the country’s second-largest producer of watermelons, behind Queensland.

Dr Tomkins said that, if CGMMV was confirmed and the virus spread across the NT, it could put a big dent in production.

“The long and the short of it is that it can have quite a significant impact on yield,” he explained.

“You end up with a fruit that breaks down inside, in the case of watermelons, so the two problems are that the yield is down and the fruit is not much good.”

cgmmvmod_665x.jpg.pagespeed.ce.r0aD_EkhyiThe virus can appear as mosaic-like mottling on leaves, with symptoms including rotting, yellowing or dirty red discolouring of the internal fruit.

Similar mosaic viruses caused by potyviruses are known to occur in northern Australia.

CGMMV can be transmitted via pollen, infected seed, machinery and – according to some reports – water.

While all melon producers in the NT have been notified about the suspected detection, Dr Tomkins said anyone coming into contact with crops needed to be “really careful”.

“The big thing for people is that, if they’re going near a melon farm, it can be very easily spread mechanically,” he said.

NT Farmers chief executive officer Grant Fenton said he believed the suspected detection would have many melon growers “a bit toey”.

“The key thing for us is that, if you look at the examples of this disease in China, there’s been a 40 to 50 per cent loss of production when it’s occurred,” he said.

“Melons are worth $50m a year to the industry, second behind mangoes.

“It’s a game changer to the industry.”

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