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$5 million committed to growing next crop of Australian plant biosecurity experts

As every forester knows, biosecurity plays a crucial role in Australia’s efforts in preventing, responding to and recovery from the impact of pests and diseases on our forests, environment and economy.

In recognition of the importance of biosecurity to our nation and the broader Asia Pacific region, an Australian research centre with a dedicated focus on building knowledge amongst a large cohort of scientific experts has been established.

In August, the Australian Government announced $5 million in funding to establish the Australian Research Council (ARC) Training Centre in Plant Biosecurity – a collaborative effort between three Australian universities, led by The Australian National University (ANU).

This initiative will ensure the training and mentorship of Australia’s next generation of plant biosecurity leaders, innovators and research professionals. A key aspect will involve partnerships between universities and industry to generate outcomes that meet real-world needs and help drive the success of the local forestry industry.

The centre will build research capacity and bolster the nation’s capabilities in plant biosecurity with the support of more than 20 partnerships with Research and Development Corporations (RDCs) including FWPA, industry representatives, governments, and innovative organisations in research and technology.

FWPA’s Head of Forest Research Jodie Mason said biosecurity research is of key importance to grower members, given its critical role in risk reduction when it comes to pests and diseases with the potential to seriously impact the sector.

“Our grower members identified forest health and biosecurity expertise as an area of critical importance for capacity building, and we therefore welcome the commitment from the Australian Government through this ARC funding,” Mason said.

“In addition to the government funding, our growers have collectively contributed $250,000 to the centre, which will fund two PhD students to work directly with forestry industry members on priority biosecurity challenges.”

The ARC Training Centre in Plant Biosecurity will roll-out a training program designed to create future leaders in this area. Activities will focus on developing innovative surveillance, detection and diagnostics technologies, data-driven decision-making platforms, and addressing barriers to adopting risk mitigation tools and strategies.

The centre’s graduates, research outcomes and technological advancements will transform plant biosecurity in Australia and help to protect our $5.7 trillion natural and productive ecosystems, as well as our forestry and wood products industry.

The ANU-led centre will commence operations in 2024 for an initial five years, in collaboration with James Cook University in Queensland, and the University of Canberra.

Professor Keith Nugent, ANU Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) said the ARC Training Centres provide PhD and early career researcher training for industries vital to Australia’s future.

“Plant biosecurity is critical to Australia’s primary production and natural ecosystems, and ANU is delighted to collaborate with partners across government, academia and industry towards a shared vision,” Nugent said.

The $5 million funding from the Australian Government is part of a broader commitment of $64 million to form eight ARC Industrial Transformation Training Centres, and five ARC Industrial Transformation Research Hubs across Australia.

For more information on the ARC Training Centre in Plant Biosecurity click here.

Posted Date: November 1, 2023

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