Invertebrate Biosecurity Challenges in High-Productivity Grassland: The New Zealand Example

S. L. Goldson, B. I. P. Barratt and K. F. Armstrong,  Frontiers in Plant Science,  7. 2016.

To protect productive grasslands from pests and diseases, effective pre- and at border planning and interventions are necessary. Biosecurity failure inevitably requires expensive and difficult eradication, or long-term and often quite ineffective management strategies. This is compared to the early intervention more likely for sectors where there is public and political interest in plants of immediate economic and/or social value, and where associated pests are typically located above-ground on host plantings of relatively limited distribution. Here, biosecurity surveillance and responses can be readily designed. In contrast, pastures comprising plants of low inherent unit value create little, if any, esthetic interest. Yet, given the vast extent of pasture in New Zealand and the value of the associated industries, these plants are of immense economic importance. Compounding this is the invasibility of New Zealand’s pastoral ecosystems through a lack of biotic resistance to incursion and invasion. Further, given the sheer area of pasture, intervention options are limited because of costs per unit area and the potential for pollution if pesticides are used. Biosecurity risk for pastoral products differs from, say, that of fruit where at least part of an invasive pathway can be recognized and risks assessed. The ability to do this via pastoral sector pathways is much reduced, since risk organisms more frequently arrive via hitchhiker pathways which are diffuse and varied. Added to this pasture pests within grassland ecosystems are typically cryptic, often with subterranean larval stages. Such characteristics make detection and response particularly difficult. The consequences of this threaten to add to the already increasing stressors of production intensification and climate change. This review explores the unique challenges faced by pasture biosecurity and what may be done to confront existing difficulties. While there is no silver bullet, and limited opportunity pre and at for improving pasture biosecurity, advancement may include increased and informed vigilance by farmers, pheromone traps and resistant plants to slow invasion. Increasingly, there is also the potential for more use of improved population dispersal models and surveillance strategies including unmanned aerial vehicles, as well as emerging techniques to determine invasive pest genomes and their geographical origins.