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Grain Producers Australia Deputy Chair and National Biosecurity Spokesperson, Barry Large, says grain producers need to be alert about the recent detection of American serpentine leafminer (ASLM) in Australia – and proactive with their monitoring on-farm.

Mr Large – also a WA farmer – said ASLM was recently detected at Kununurra in his home State, as well As in Far North Queensland and in the Torres Strait region; representing the first time this exotic pest has been found on Australia’s mainland.

He said State and Federal biosecurity agencies are continuing to conduct surveillance and tracing activities, in order to determine the full spread of the pest – and grain farmers should also keep an eye out for any potential incursions in their legume crops.

“Although the threat to the grains industry and cereal crops from this tropical incursion may be limited at this early stage, grain producers need to be aware of the potential risks and take necessary preventative actions,” he said.

“Growers are currently being urged to check and monitor their crops regularly for any signs of this plant pest which is regarded as a severe economic threat to our national plant industries.

“If you suspect an American serpentine leafminer infestation, report it to the Agriculture Department in your State or Territory, by phoning the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.”

ASLM is a tiny fly whose larvae damages plants by tunnelling (mining) through leaf tissue. Leaf damage occurs through puncture wounds from the adult feeding and depositing eggs, as well as the larvae tunnel, or mine, within the leaf tissue.

The plant pest is wind borne and eggs, larvae and pupae can be spread through the movement of plant material, soil, clothing and equipment.

Hosts extend to more than 400 species of plants in 28 families, including many economically important vegetables, cut flowers and legume crops. These include beans, celery, chrysanthemum, cucumber, gerbera, gypsophila, lettuce, onion, potato, tomato and peanuts – but also soybeans, lentils, lupins, faba beans and chickpeas.

Severe infestations of American serpentine leafminer may result in premature leaf drop, poor growth, and reduced crop yields. Australia considers it a National Priority Plant Pest.

The WA Department of Primary Industries is urging industry to look for:

· Trails or 'mines' - light green to white squiggles - on leaf surfaces.

· Trails get wider as the larvae grow.

· Fungal and bacterial infection may occur, as the feeding damage increases susceptibility to secondary infections.

· Trails may be indistinguishable from the damage of other leafminers – so report any damage, even if unsure.

The Department also says American serpentine leafminer is widespread overseas, being present in North and South America, Asia, Africa, Europe and some Pacific islands.

Mr Large said good on-farm biosecurity practices are vital to help prevent incursions of plant pests and diseases, with GPA responsible for representing the $12 billion Australian grains industry on biosecurity matters, as a member of Plant Health Australia (PHA).

Biosecurity responsibilities through PHA include the Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed which covers the management and funding of nationally agreed responses to emergency plant pests.

Mr Large said PHA co-managed the Farm Biosecurity website which provided relevant management information for growers such as the ‘Biosecurity Manual for Grain Producer’.

Further information on the American serpentine leafminer including trade impacts and photos is available on the Outbreak website.

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