Nate Jameson: Australia must prepare for devastating diseases now
15 March 2019
Australia is in the fortunate position to be able to plan for potential disease incursions now, while it is free from major pests and disease, and it would be in its best interests to act.
This was the message from Nate Jameson, who owns Brite Leaf Nursery in Florida, USA, and has seen firsthand the devastating effect of HLB in his country.
Nate was a key note speaker at the 2019 Citrus Technical Forum in Adelaide and is also President-elect of the International Society of Citrus Nurserymen.
HLB has devastated the citrus industry in the USA, first in Florida and now in California, where findings of the disease have risen 400% in the last few months.
In Florida, where it has cut the citrus industry’s production by almost half, it was first detected in a backyard before spreading rapidly through the State.
“It’s not that we sat on our haunches and didn’t do anything,” Nate said. “It shows how quickly it can spread.”
“You guys are so blessed in the way you have the opportunity to sit around the table and have a rational discussion on what you’re going to do.
“You have time to be proactive. That’s a valuable thing in itself.
“You have time to have those discussions. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You can survive infection. Almost half the citrus industries in the world have done it or are in the process of doing it.
“Remember there is a lag time between infection and detection!”
The time frame between infection and detection of the disease is three years. Nate provided examples of how the nursery industry in Florida is retrofitting its nurseries but also focused on the bigger picture.
“The biggest challenge you have as an industry is getting your head around a rule. You need a federal rule with teeth so it can deal with those that intentionally break the rule,” he said.
“The rule should create a level playing field. You cannot as an industry say Queensland has to have a rule and WA does not.
“You also cannot impose a financial burden on one segment of industry and not impose that burden on another.
“You can’t say to a commercial citrus nurseryman, you need to make this big investment, but not deal with those making propagations in the backyard. If you do that, you allow one person to benefit by cheating a rule. A rule with teeth is needed for those who refuse to understand or refuse to comply, and that rule needs to be enforced.
“That part of the decision is critically important – there must be an even playing field for everyone on a federal level.”
Nate said that was one of the mistakes made in Florida.
“We did not put enough teeth in the rule, we had to go back and amend the rule to deal with it.
Nate said the nursery industry is a critical part of protecting the industry from disease, but any plan needs to include all aspects of the industry.
“We made a mistake in Florida thinking one segment can have a significant effect on survival of HLB. It does have a significant effect but it is not the only one.”
He also said planning needs to focus on more than one disease.
“Our Brazilian friends spend more money controlling black spot than HLB. In your discussion processes you need to look at the big picture. Don’t become myopic and focus on one disease or you will end up retro fitting.”
The cost of retrofitting all nurseries in Florida to ensure exclusion of potential pests and disease is passed onto industry through increased tree costs. In Florida, the price of the tree doubled in 12 months.
Nate also said traceability was essential and random inspections of garden centers are also required to ensure compliance.
Nate Jameson addresses the 2019 Citrus Technical Forum.