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In November 2018 Exercise Fastidious was held to test the response to the detection of Xylella fastidiosa in Australia. The simulation exercise involved 59 attendees from 29 peak government, research and industry organisations across Australia and New Zealand, with AOA CEO Greg Seymour attending and participating on behalf of the Australian olive industry.

Using the Emergency Plant Pest framework and principles, andfocusing on the production nursery sector and the broader implications to all horticultural industries, the participants considered the technical feasibility of eradication, complexities and the existence of local native insect vectors, and developed a Response Plan.

A report on Exercise Fastidious has now been published, identifying ways to further strengthen Australia’s preparedness to respond to a detection of Xylella fastidiosa.

The report was written by Plant Health Australia in consultation with the Exercise Planning Committee, to provide a summary of activities and a critical analysis of outcomes and learnings. It identified that during Exercise Fastidious:

  • the Technical Feasibility of Eradication Decision Making Support Tool provided transparency to decision making and identified areas of focus for the response strategy;
  • participants reached consensus on the appropriate movement conditions, and the destruction and disposal of Xylella-infected plants;
  • the assumed level of confidence in the presence, absence or identity of an as-yet-undetected vector impacted the intensity of response actions and challenged the ability to agree on a response strategy;
  • the unknown potential for native or naturalised insects to vector Xylella challenged the development of the response strategy;
  • participants found that proving area and property freedom was difficult where the pest can be asymptomatic, has a wide host range and has a reservoir in its vectors.

The exercise also identified 18 research questions, which when addressed will support a more effective eradication response should X. fastidiosa be detected in Australia.

On the olive industry front, Seymour said that since the exercise the AOA has actively increased its activity around biosecurity awareness and is continuing to do so as part of its industry risk management program.

“With Xylella, prevention is far better than cure, and it is imperative that everyone in the industry play their part,” he said.

Download the Exercise Fastidious report here.

Note: Xyella is currently rated the number one National Priority Plant Pest in Australia, and is responsible for the decimation of hundreds of hectares of olive groves across Puglia, Italy. Australia is currently free of all X. fastidiosa subspecies and known vectors of the disease found overseas, however, if it established here it could cause significant environmental and economic impacts. Learn more here.