Who detects pests in the grains industry?

Source: CSIRO, used with permission.

I’ve devoted a lot of my research effort towards designing active surveillance for biosecurity; that is, the structured surveys that we use to detect specific problem species (like this). Yet many pests are detected incidentally; the Hawkweed Eradication Program can thank a well-trained off-duty volunteer for reporting the third invading species, and their monitoring staff have a detected a number of new Hawkweed infestations as they go about their routine activities. Such reports form a secondary layer of passive or general surveillance. These detections can be pivotal for pest management programs, but they’re much more difficult to quantify and control. What style of training will inform and motivate staff to report pests? What kinds of public awareness campaigns lead to new findings and better management?

During her PhD studies, Nichole Hammond took on this issue in the context of Western Australia’s grains industry. She surveyed growers, agricultural consultants, Department of Agriculture and Food staff, and a self-described cowboy to test their familiarity with the signs and symptoms of four high-priority grain pests. In the second part of her study Nichole went on to assess participants’ likelihood of reporting what they observed and to whom they’d report. This enabled Nichole to analyse the sensitivity of general surveillance; that is, the probability that any existing pest would be detected, reported and therefore managed during routine industry activities. That’s important information for assessing current industry biosecurity practice and identifying where improvement is needed.

This month the survey findings are published in two Crop Protection papers, of which I’m a co-author. Please email me if you’d like a copy of either of them!


Hammond, N.E.B., Hardie, D., Hauser, C.E. & Reid, S. (2016) Can general surveillance detect high priority pests in the Western Australian grains industry? Crop Protection 79: 8-14. doi:10.1016/j.cropro.2015.10.004

Hammond, N.E.B., Hardie, D., Hauser, C.E. & Reid, S. (2016) How would high priority pests be reported in the Western Australian grains industry? Crop Protection 79:26-33. doi:10.1016/j.cropro.2015.10.005


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