sustainability through science & innovation

our projects

As a busy research and extension group with two distinct, yet complementary, areas of focus – 'biodiversity conservation' and 'sustainable agriculture' – we always have activities on the go. Here's an overview of some of our projects:


Australian Grains Pest Innovation Program (AGPIP)

Project Partners: The University of Melbourne

Funding body: The University of Melbourne; The Grains Research and Development Corporation

The Australian Grains Pest Innovation Program (AGPIP) is focused on supporting Australian grain growers transition to a more sustainable approach for management of invertebrate pests. AGPIP will make use of novel pest suppressive technologies such as endosymbionts, molecular approaches and predictive modelling, as well as other previously unexplored disciplines, for the management of pests. Additionally, the extension component of AGPIP will focus on translating the program’s research outcomes into grower guides and other management tools.

AGPIP will run from June 2019 to April 2024. The initiative is a GRDC investment and includes in-kind contributions from all project partner organisations.

For further information email Dr Paul Umina at pumina@cesaraustralia.com.

The great Australian platypus search

Project partners: San Diego Zoo Global, the University of Melbourne

Funding body: San Diego Zoo Global

This large-scale platypus survey will help us better understand the conservation status of this species around the country and identify key threats to local populations, and help waterway/land managers to protect platypuses. This project will also allow us to use an exciting new technology, environmental DNA, to investigate the presence of platypuses and determine their current distribution. This survey complements and extends long-term population monitoring conducted by cesar and supported by Melbourne Water and the Wimmera CMA.

We also have a series of smaller, regional citizen science-based projects running in conjunction with GAPS that will generate more detailed information on platypus in their area, but also contributing to GAPS. These are currently running in the Upper Barwon and Upper Campaspe regions. Want to become involved? Check out platypusSPOT. (Follow platypusSPOT on Facebook and Twitter for updates and results.) 

Insecticide resistance in the green peach aphid

Project Partners: Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development; CSIRO

Funding body: The Grains Research and Development Corporation

Additional investment partners: ISK; BASF; Corteva

Green peach aphid is a major vector of the turnip yellows virus (TuYV) in the Australian broadacre grain industry. With green peach aphid populations demonstrating varying levels of resistance to all five chemical options registered for use by Australian grain growers, developing a better understanding of the future resistance risks and protecting existing chemistries is a priority. Building on previous research undertaken by cesar and other project partners, throughout this project we will:

- Develop new methods to test insecticide resistance in green peach aphids to novel chemistries;

- Conduct a national insecticide resistance surveillance program and undertake widespread testing of green peach aphid populations;

- Provide updated resistance and TuYV management information that reflects resistance risks for new pesticides and patterns in the evolution of insecticide resistance;

- Develop prediction modelling on movement of aphid populations incorporating seasonal variation, plant host availability, and short- and long-distance dispersal; and

- Provide growers and advisors with information to support adoption of effective resistance management strategies in line with research findings.

For further information email Marielle Babineau at mbabineau@cesaraustralia.com

Mite insecticide resistance

Project partners: CSIRO, the University of Melbourne, WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development

Funding body: Grains Research and Development Corporation

A major concern facing the Australian grains industry is the reliance on three registered chemical classes to control both of these insect pests – neonicotinoids as a seed dressing, and synthetic pyrethroids (SPs) and organophosphates (OPs) as foliar insecticides.

Through this project we are screening redlegged earth mite (RLEM) populations from all over Australia where control failures to neonicotinoid seed treatments are suspected; and populations from South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania where control failures to SPs and/or OPs are suspected. For lucerne flea, we are screening populations from all over Australia where control failures to foliar insecticides or seed treatments are suspected.

For further information email Dr Paul Umina at pumina@cesaraustralia.com

New invertebrate knowledge

Project partners: CSIRO, the University of Melbourne

Funding body: the Grains Research and Development Corporation

This project is generating new knowledge about the biology and lifecycles of pest and beneficial species across the southern and western regions. It is also investigating the impact of beneficial species on pest populations. Two focus pests for this project are earwigs and millipedes. One end product of the project will be lifecycle schematics for pest and beneficial species, and an in-field guide for advisors and growers that will assist in identification and management.

For further information email Dr Paul Umina at pumina@cesaraustralia.com

Preparedness for vegetable leafminer 

Project partners: Plant Health Australia, AUSVEG, Northern Australia Quarantine Strategy (with input from Biosecurity QLD and Nursery & Garden Industry Australia)

Funding body: Hort Innovation

This project was developed in recognition of the extensive impact that vegetable leafminer (Liriomyza sativae) could have on the vegetable and nursery industries were it to move into production areas with no management plan in place.

Throughout the duration of the project, we will:

- Investigate biological and chemical control options

Identify spread pathways into Australia

Develop management guidelines and trapping methods

Model the spread of the pest from Cape York Peninsula

Develop a contingency plan that will guide authorities in the event of a regional eradication.

For further information email Dr Elia Pirtle at epirtle@cesaraustralia.com

Preparedness for spotted wing Drosophila

Project partners: Plant Health Australia, Plant & Food Research NZ (with input from Horticulture NZ)

Funding body: Hort Innovation

The launch of this project follows several high profile horticultural exotic pest incursions in Australia, such as the varroa mite, the vegetable leafminer, panama disease (tropical race 4), and the tomato potato psyllid.

Through this project we will:

1. Increase the chance of detection and reporting of spotted wing drosophila through increased awareness and knowledge of the pest.

2. Improve Australia’s capacity to respond effectively to incursions of spotted wing drosophila.

To achieve these objectives, project partners will review the potential entry pathways and impacts for Australia, impacts of spotted wing drosophila overseas, and our preparedness and response capability in Australia. We will also review overseas management practices and incursion response protocols to support preparation of appropriate management plans and control permits. This information will be used to develop a cross commodity contingency plan, including optimum surveillance protocols.

Another aspect of this project involves running an awareness and education campaign for potentially affected industries, involving seminars, articles, and preparedness workshops.

For further information email Dr Jessica Lye at jlye@cesaraustralia.com

Russian wheat aphid

Project partners: South Australian Research and Development Institute

Funding body: the Grains Research and Development Corporation

Russian wheat aphid (RWA) is now a management concern for grain growers in regions where it has been found (South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, and Tasmania) and poses a risk for currently unaffected regions. Limited research under local agro-climatic conditions and farming systems currently exists.

Through this project we will:

- Investigate the relationship between aphid numbers, plant symptoms and yield loss across regions

- Assess the effects of seed treatments and insecticide sprays on aphid numbers

- Develop regional economic thresholds

- Monitor for RWA populations on summer hosts, such as grasses and volunteer cereals

- Assess the role of local climate and land use in supporting RWA populations over summer

- Develop models to predict aphid growth over this period.

For further information email Dr Jessica Lye at jlye@cesaraustralia.com

IPM adoption

Project partners: Birchip Cropping Group, South Australian Research and Development Institute, C-Qual Agritelligence, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

Funding body: the Grains Research and Development Corporation

This project takes an innovative approach to extension of agricultural best-practice research. Drawing together our current knowledge of IPM and resistance management best practices and using an extension and communication framework that has been developed through focus group studies and with key social drivers in mind, we will support the adoption of sustainable practices in the grains southern region.

For further information email Dr Jessica Lye at jlye@cesaraustralia.com

Pastures insects of SE Australia

Project partners: Pasturewise, the University of Melbourne, Ag-Research NZ

Funding body: Dairy Australia

Working with our project partners we are assessing the distribution of key pasture pests in south-eastern dairy regions.

The project began with a producer survey that gauged how often producers are re-sowing pasture due to damage from pests, and how often they observe certain pests. Pasturewise is also conducting autumn and spring field surveys across south eastern Australia to determine the distribution and abundance of pasture pests (and beneficials) in major dairy regions. These samples are sent to us for identification.

The project is also assessing the cost of pasture pest related damage to the dairy industry – this is being done through expert elicitation sessions and economic analysis by the University of Melbourne. During expert elicitation sessions we invite advisors to join us to assess abundances of pests they have observed and the damage those pests cause.

An industry capacity building component is undertaken throughout the project – interested industry members can join Pasturewise on pest surveys, or you can attend one of our pasture pest insect identification masterclasses run throughout the year.

For further information email Dr Jessica Lye at jlye@cesaraustralia.com

IPM for Grains 

Project partners: South Australian Research and Development Institute, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, New South Wales Department of Primary Industries

Funding body: the Grains Research and Development Corporation

This project is delivered by the National Pest Information Network, a group of entomologists and extension specialists at cesar, DPIRD, QDAF, NSW DPI, and SARDI.

This project aims to provide grain growers and advisors with information on invertebrate grain pest occurrence and equip industry with the knowledge needed to implement integrated pest management practices. A major delivery platform for this project is PestFacts south-eastern.

For further information email Julia Severi at jseveri@cesaraustralia.com

Urban playtus program

Funding body: Melbourne Water, Wimmera CMA

Supported by Melbourne Water, cesar has been surveying platypus in Melbourne catchments for over ten years. During surveying, all platypuses that are captured get a thorough health check. They are weighed and measured, and they get an identification chip so we know if they are caught again. They are then quickly released back into the creek. The whole process only takes about 15 minutes. These surveys have helped us evaluate platypus population health and reccommend management solutions for those populations that are under threat.

With support from the Wimmera CMA, we have also conducted long-term regional surveys in the Upper Barwon and Upper Campaspe regions.

Want to become involved? Check out PlatypusSpot. (Follow PlatypusSpot on Facebook and Twitter for updates and results.)

For further information or if your region is interested in running a regional platypus surveillance project email Josh Griffiths at jgriffiths@cesaraustralia.com

Bandicoot genetic rescue

Project partners: The University of Melbourne, La Trobe University, The University of New South Wales, and Mount Buller and Mount Stirling Alpine Resort Management, Mount Rothwell Conservation Park

Funding body: Various (including individual donations through crowd funding)

It takes a phenomenal effort to bring a species back from the brink of extinction. But how do we make sure these populations survive, long into the future? cesar is part of a team that has previously used ‘genetic rescue’ to help save the Mt Buller mountain pygmy possum and in 2018 we were involved in a crowd funding campaign to undertake more genetic rescue work, this time for the Victorian eastern barred bandicoot. We raised over $15,000 to bring a group of healthy male bandicoots from Tasmania to give the Victorian population a genetic boost. 

Over 2019 we will monitor changes in fitness amoung remaining Victorian eastern barred bandicoots following introduction of Tasmanian males to the population at the Mt Rothwell Conservation Park. We would love to share our conservation experiences with you, so stay tuned for an invitation to visit Mt Rothwell for a talk and evening bandicoot walk with cesar Director, Dr Andrew Weeks.

 

Development of identification resources and enhancing diagnostics capacity for high priority plant pests

Funding: Rural R&D for Profit Program, Federal Department of Agriculture and Water, and the Grains Research and Development Corporation, with funds from other RDC's - Sugar RDC, Wine Australia, Cotton RDC, Forestry RDC, and Hort Innovation.

Part of the collaborative program - Boosting diagnostic capacity for plant industries.

Summary:

The quality of diagnostic information and the speed at which it is collected has a direct effect on containment or eradication activities and, therefore, supply chain continuity.

A rate limiting factor for informed decision-making during incursion response is the delimitation of pest distribution from the initial detection site. Fortunately, species often leave indicators of their presence via trace amounts of DNA (environmental DNA). For example, a leafmining fly will leave DNA in its leafmines and in its frass, which we can detect using eDNA diagnostic techniques to confirm the identity of the pest.

Further, even within species there is variation in the risk that specific pests posed to production industries and it is becoming increasingly important to consider exotic incursions on a genetic level (‘genetic incursions’) in order to mitigate risks.

cesar activities within the wider Rural R&D for Profit project ‘Boosting diagnostics capacity for plant production industries’ aim to increase the effectiveness of verifying pest spread and establishment by:

- Developing resources to support building industry capacity in identification

- Analysing priority pests to identify good candidates for eDNA diagnostics and development of probes for high risk biotypes.

- Identifying and prioritising risks posed by genetic variants of exotic High Priority Plant Pests, and development of protocols for high risk biotypes.

Exploring IPM-compatible methods for spotted winged drosophila in berry crops (MT18010)

Funding: Hort Innovation

Summary:

Overseas, while spotted wing drosophila is being managed, it has generally come at the cost of increased pesticide usage, which has disrupted IPM programs. Becoming acquainted with IPM practices prior to an incursion, will allow growers to estimate extra on-farm costs that may arise under a management scenario, such as higher labour costs arising from changes to hygiene practices. This will aid in assessing business risk and building business resilience prior to an incursion.

Working in parallel with IPM Technologies, under leadership from the Spotted Wing Drosophila Industry Steering Group, cesar is:

- Reviewing options for beneficial control of spotted wing drosophila in Australian regions

- Modelling expected spotted wing drosophila seasonal activity for major berry production areas

- Continuing to raise awareness about spotted wing drosophila, detection and management options

 

Preparedness and management for fall armyworm, Spodoptera frugiperda (CES2004-003RTX)

Project partners: CABI International, Plant Health Australia & Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

Funding body: Grains Research and Development Corporation

Summary:

By November 2020, the Australian grains industry will be aware of the potential impacts of, be better protected and prepared for, the new exotic incursion of fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) leading to a reduction in risk and minimising potential damage to the industry.

The project will increase the likelihood of fast, effective, and sustainable management of fall armyworm as well as reduce disruption to supply chains. The delivery of core outputs will allow GRDC to rapidly and effectively respond to the research, development and extension needs of the Australian grains industry through well-targeted and coordinated future investment. Pest establishment, spread, impact and management analytics will immediately increase the capacity of industry to rapidly respond to incursions to minimise impacts. A Business Continuity Plan will mitigate the risks of fall armyworm to the grains industry. Collectively, this will enable the Australian grains growers to maintain their productivity, profitability and global competitiveness in the face of novel biosecurity threats.