By Growcom CEO David Thomson

Plants produce 98 per cent of the oxygen we breathe and make up 80 per cent of the food we eat. So why don’t we give plant health the attention it deserves?

The Food and Agriculture Organisation for the United Nations (FAO) estimates pests and diseases destroy 20 to 40 per cent of food crops annually, impoverishing millions of people worldwide and negatively impacting rural communities’ main source of income.

While Australia has a good reputation for high-quality, ‘clean’ produce, our plant industries are under constant threat.

By 2025, the Department of Agriculture predicts the number of shipping containers arriving in the country will increase by 75 per cent and the movement of people will increased by 72 per cent. If we do no more than we are currently, the residual risk to our plant life will increase by 70 per cent.

In the name of global vigilance, the United Nations has proclaimed 2020 to be the International Year of Plant Heath with Plant Health Australia (PHA) and the Federal Department of Agriculture helping to raising awareness Down Under.

PHA has identified some 370 potential pests and diseases that put industry at stake, with the Brown marmorated stink bug and plant disease Xylella fastidiosa identified as prime examples of the threat posed to the viability of the horticulture industry.

Closer to home, the cost of existing invasive plants to the Queensland economy alone is around $600 million a year.

So Growcom welcomed in November the Queensland Government’s Invasive Pest Plants and Animals Strategy for 2019-2024, which outlines an inclusive framework to build on existing efforts combating biosecurity threats.

Though a solid framework, with so much at stake the Strategy will mean nothing without sufficient government funding and also the support and vigilance of industry and the public, including from farmers monitoring their crops, conservationists in our parks, and urbanites in their gardens.

To continue charting a course forward Growcom is looking forward to representing horticulture and feeding the needs of our industry into the Biosecurity Queensland Ministerial Advisory Committee (BQMAC).   

The Committee has recently been created to provide direction on Queensland’s priorities within the national biosecurity system and to advise the Agricultural Minister Mark Furner on key biosecurity issues and trends affecting Queensland.

We look forward to the BQMAC convening and with a healthy focus on the plants that sustain us.