The annual ‘Biosecurity in Theory and Practice’ course was held last month at Kansas State University (KSU) and convened by Prof. Jim Stack. PBRI Program Director, Dr Jo Luck, was invited to present her research on the implications of climate change and plant biosecurity.

There was an excellent cross-section of biosecurity theory covered in this course balanced by a visit to the University’s BSL-3 high containment facility and a biosecurity planning exercise for three scenarios – at a country, commodity and pathogen level.

Fungal expert, Dr Barbara Valent (KSU) presented on the global threat of the ‘cereal killer’, wheat blast. The pathogen originally caused rice blast but has adapted to Triticum hosts with epidemics emerging in Brazil in 1985 and subsequently spreading to Bolivia, Paraguay and northern Argentina before moving to Bangladesh in 2016. This disease is poised to spread in South Asia and beyond, with major potential impacts for global food security worldwide. Neither wheat blast or rice blast has been recorded in Australia.

Jim Stack discussed Biosecurity in the genomics era and the limitations to sequence based diagnostics. We also heard the latest on myrtle rust in New Zealand from Dr Grant Smith (Plant and Food Research New Zealand) and Prof. Simon McKirdy (Murdoch University) described Biosecurity in irrigated crop production in the Ord Region and the protection of pristine environments such as Barrow Island.

This highly regarded course is held annually and is open to interested industry and government staff and to students studying topics related to biosecurity.