‘Quantum’ step towards on-the-spot Hendra virus detection
CSIRO scientists, in collaboration with researchers at the Bio21 Institute at the University of Melbourne, have developed a new method which could pave the way for a portable Hendra virus biosensor. In a paper published in the journal of Advanced Healthcare Materials, CSIRO scientists detail the outcome of the study designed to find a faster, simpler way to detect the deadly virus. Current detection methods are mainly lab-based and require samples to be shipped to state or national testing labs. CSIRO’s tests have shown that this new method can deliver a positive or negative test result, under lab conditions, within 30 minutes. The hope is this can be reduced to 10 minutes in the future, making portable detection a reality. The team tested three new detection methods and found that by using quantum dots – to increase the sensitivity of current analytics methods (assays) – they were able to simplify the detection process to the point where the creation of a portable sensor is now possible. “The early detection of viruses, such as the Hendra virus, will greatly enhance the success rate of any biosecurity counter measure,” Dr Paolo Falcaro, CSIRO Research Scientist and leader of the joint research team, said.
Asian investment on menu at Aus Ag Conference
An issue currently facing Australian agriculture is the sector's relationship with major trading partners, including China. It sometimes seems the sector is happy to sell produce to China, but nervous about China investing in Australian agricultural assets. Yet from China’s perspective, both agricultural trade and offshore investment in agricultural assets make complete sense. China has about 21 % of the world’s population and only 8.5 % of the world’s arable land. Adding to the challenge, China has been a net agricultural importer since 2003 and is unlikely to ever be able to be totally self-sufficient. Australia’s Minister for Trade and Competitiveness Craig Emerson will discuss whether China and Asia are indeed the future of Australia Agriculture at this years’ Australian Agriculture Roundtable Conference, to be held in Brisbane on November 13-14.Other topics that will be discussed at the conference include Do Australian competition laws protect consumers at the expense of Australian agriculture?, Managing the changing community expectations of agriculture, and the domestic and international economic outlook for agricultural commodities. For conference and registration details click here to visit the Australian Farm Institute website
Quarantine intercepts exotic ticks
Two exotic ticks of high biosecurity risk—one usually found on European hedgehogs—have been intercepted by a biosecurity officer in Sydney. DAFF spokesman Tim Chapman said the ticks were found during a veterinary inspection of an imported dog. A DAFF entomologist identified a castor bean tick (Ixodes ricinus) and the hedgehog tick (Ixodes hexagonus). Both are exotic to Australia with the potential to transmit life-threatening bacterial and viral pathogens, such as Lyme disease and tick-borne encephalitis. The castor bean tick is usually found on dogs and horses from Europe. The hedgehog tick’s preferred hosts are, aptly, European hedgehogs.
“Our strong biosecurity system protects animal and plant health, underpins the productivity of our primary industries and protects the environment,” Mr Chapman said. Information on importing dogs and cats into Australia can be found on the DAFF website at www.daff.gov.au/catsanddogs.
NSW Govt strengthens animal welfare laws
NSW Parliament has passed new animal welfare laws which improve the health and welfare of livestock through early expert intervention and animal husbandry advice. The key amendments to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 are the establishment of a panel of experts (Stock Welfare Panel) to investigate and report on the state of and appropriate care for the animal(s); the Director General to issue a notice to the owner, or person in charge of the livestock, informing them of an intention to seize and sell the stock if actions specified in the notice to improve welfare are not taken within a time specified; and, the Panel to monitor compliance with the notice and provide recommendations on actions following the expiry of the notice. Minister for Primary Industries Katrina Hodgkinson said the amendments will significantly benefit livestock, their owners and managers. “During the last drought we saw several animal welfare prosecutions which, with the changes adopted in this Bill, may have resulted in the owners being supported to rehabilitate their livestock,” Ms Hodgkinson said. “These amendments encourage education and the opportunity to improve husbandry to restore the animals’ health before action is taken.”
National award for WA drought pilot
A pilot program to help Western Australian farming families prepare for drought has been recognised with the Strategic Planning Award at the 2012 Economic Development Australia awards in Cairns. The Drought Pilot Program involved seven measures to help farm families, businesses and communities prepare for and respond to drought. These included farm business planning and management training; income support and community grants; and mental health support. WA Agriculture and Food Minister Terry Redman said a series of ‘Plan, Prepare and Prosper’ workshops, developed by the department to build farmers’ business capacity, were central to the pilot’s success. “The benefits of this have been far reaching,” Mr Redman said. “Farm and pastoral businesses, the families who run them and the communities which they are part of, are stronger and better able to deal effectively with the increasing frequency of dry seasons. Exit surveys showed participants felt better prepared for drought, had greater confidence in implementing business plans and had increased confidence in the future of farming.” He said that while the Drought Pilot Program had concluded, the State Government had continued its commitment to building farm resilience by extending the Business Capacity Building workshops in 2012-13.
Qld’s Spyglass Research Centre taking shape
Queensland minister for agriculture, fisheries and forestry John McVeigh says the new Spyglass Beef Research Facility is on track to be fully operational by the end of the year. The 38,200 hectare facility, 110km north of Charters Towers, received a $3 million funding injection for more capital works in the 2012-13 Queensland budget. Spyglass welcomed its first herd of cattle at the end of 2011, with nearly 500 weaners and breeders moving from the decommissioned Swans Lagoon Research Station near Ayr. A further 1600 have since arrived which form the foundation of the station’s new breeding herd. Around 4000 cattle will eventually call Spyglass home. “These cattle will be critical to the role Spyglass will play in boosting the productivity and profitability of the northern beef industry,” Mr McVeigh said. “The research program at Spyglass will focus on long term monitoring as well as education in best practice for beef cattle genetics, reproduction, nutrition, welfare, husbandry and grazing land management.” Works underway include offices, staff quarters and services, with further developments later this year to include roads, yards, dams and a local weather station.