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Role And Effectiveness Of Quarantine Against Citrus Canker In Australia

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Citrus canker is a contagious disease affecting Citrus species such as limes, oranges, and grapefruit. It is caused by the bacterium ‘Xanthomonas Axonopodis’, which is carried in wind-blown rain that enters the plant through wounds in the tissues of the plant. Once the bacteria gets through the stomata it then infects the plant causing raised, spongy lesions to form on the leaves, stems, and fruit. These lesions consist of dead collapsed cells surrounded by hyperplastic cells. Severe cases of this disease can cause defoliation, die back, premature fruit drop and death.

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Citrus canker is highly contagious and requires quarantine measures to stop it from entering Australia. Heavy rainfall and extreme winds can cause this disease to travel very fast over a large space and if this disease was to enter Australia it would have the potential to contaminate large quantities of citrus trees. These infected plants and fruits cannot be sold and must be discarded, this makes the price of producing disease-free citrus to be much higher, consequently lowering profit and increasing the chance of job loss within the citrus industry.

The first line of defense against citrus canker is quarantine, which prohibits the entry of infected plants into Australia. Only short lengths of young branches, known as ‘budwood’ are allowed into Australia. These plants must go into the Australian government’s ‘Post Entry Quarantine’ facility, for at least 2 years where they will be subject to screenings and tests to find unwanted plant pathogens. If it is found to have a disease such as citrus canker, the plant may then undergo disease elimination treatments. Only plants completely disease free will be released from biosecurity control.

The advantage of these quarantine measures is that it stops infected plants and any material carrying the disease from entering Australian borders. Unfortunately, the citrus canker bacteria can be carried long distances through strong winds, hurricanes and even insects. This means that effected countries such as Papua New Guinea which is a close neighbor of Australia, could spread the disease over the border. These bacterium carried by wind and rain cannot be controlled by quarantine, leaving Australia, more susceptible. Also, even after quarantine tests are done when a citrus reaches the border, there is still a possibility that one of these tested plants will contain citrus canker and make it through undetected.

Even so, these quarantine measures successfully keep Australia’s borders safe from citrus canker and because of this we are the only continent to be free from citrus canker.

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