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2020 is the UN's International Year of Plant Health. So, each month this year, our Technical Lead for Biosecurity, Sharna Holman, will be bringing you her top tips for your plant health.

For January this tip is: Monitor, manage, report.

Australia’s biosecurity system helps protect us from exotic plant pests and pathogens, however there is always the possibility that exotic pests will enter the country and reach our second line of defence – us.

Exotic plant pests and diseases can reduce yields and profitability, affect our environment or change the way we manage our crops and farms. Being familiar with the pests that represent the greatest risk to the cotton industry is important so that you are able to respond quickly to a suspected exotic pest. Early reporting of a pest incursion provides the greatest chances for successful eradication.

Growers and agronomists are regularly monitoring crops, looking for things that are out of the ordinary and may be affecting production. The 2018 Cotton Grower Survey found that 97 per cent of cotton growers are regularly monitoring crops for pests, weeds and diseases. Keeping an eye out for anything unusual during these checks or even from the seat of your ute or tractor could make all the difference with detecting an incursion early.

The regular monitoring of crops allows crop managers to do two things:

  • Implement appropriate management strategies, taking in considerations of pest thresholds, plant physiology and desired yield outcomes.
  • Keep an eye out for anything unusual. What's considered 'unusual'? Sightings of anything unusual can include unexpected crop failures, abnormally high mortality rates in plants or sudden and unexplained crop damage or yield loss.

High priority pests - what are you looking for?

Ensuring that you are aware of what the cotton industry’s high priority pests look like will assist with quick reporting.

There are 15 high priority pest and disease threats for Australian cotton production.

These pests, if they were to enter the country, are likely to have a negative impact on yields and disrupt our farming and management systems. One of the pests on the high priority list, Bt resistant Helicoverpa, would not be able to be controlled by Bt cotton and require additional control. Another high priority pest, brown mamorated stink bug (BMSB - pictured right, source: has an extremely broad host range and is a notable IPM disruptor with a lack of soft chemical options available to control this pest.

The Cotton Pest Management Guide has photos and symptoms of the industry’s high priority pests; if you think something unusual is going on in your field or suspect an exotic pest, contact the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881 from anywhere in Australia.

Your quick response will help the agricultural industry have a chance to control any potential exotic pest incursions and the long-term impacts that these pests could have on our farming system. Therefore as an industry, it is important we be vigilant and proactive in raising the awareness of these high priority pests.

One of the ways you can raise awareness within your business is to include a biosecurity component as part of your workplace inductions and tool shed meetings so employees are aware of your on-farm biosecurity practices as well as well as what to do if they see something unusual. Another way of raising awareness within the workplace is to include Exotic Cotton Pests biosecurity posters in the shed or office to act as a reminder to staff and contractors.

Resources available to help you on farm:


This blog is part of a year long program from CottonInfo, with the themes aligned with the 2020 CottonInfo cotton calendar and the UN's International Year of Plant Health. For more information, view the calendar, or contact the CottonInfo Technical Lead for Biosecurity, Sharna Holman