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By Ian Dewar 5 April 2023 2 min read

The Australian Pest Genome Partnership (APGP) is producing genetic data for Australia's top pests and weeds to enable next generation research and management options.

Invasive pests and weeds cost Australia billions of dollars every year in lost agricultural production and environmental damage.

Our partnership will deliver easily accessible, reference-quality data assets on Australia’s top pests and weeds with environmental, agricultural and public health impacts.

It will support the development of modern genome-based approaches to manage these species.

Pesky pests and weeds wreaking havoc

Australia has lost at least 100 native species since European settlement. Invasive species played a part in at least three quarters of these extinctions.

Today more than eight in 10 of our terrestrial threatened species are at risk from invasive species. These include weeds, invasive animals (in particular rabbits, pigs and cats) and pathogens.

Feral cats have contributed to the extinction of 27 native species. Photo by Andrew Cooke.

Finding the 'Achilles' helix' of pests

Australia has led the world in finding solutions, such as biocontrol agents, to our pest and weed problems. Now genetic and digital technologies are potential game changers.

The key is analysing the DNA of pests and weeds to unlock their secrets and investigate genetic control technologies. These could limit population growth while eliminating any non-target impacts and ensuring humane control options.

Decoding a solution for research

Dr Tom Walsh and Dr Rahul Rane head up the Australian Pest Genome Partnership at CSIRO

The Australian Pest Genome Partnership (APGP) brings together the Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC), the Australian National University (ANU) and Biocommons Australia (Bioplatforms Australia), and us.

Our principal research scientist Dr Tom Walsh said the APGP will generate foundational genomic data of our top pest species.

“Producing and publishing this high-quality genome data will underpin the development of modern genome-based approaches to manage environmental pests, such as rodents, cats and rabbits, health pests including mosquitoes, and agricultural pests, like moths, flies and beetles,” Tom said.

Our senior research consultant Dr Rahul Rane said decoding their DNA will give us vital information. This includes where a pest species originated, what environments it prefers and which chemicals it is resistant to.

"Understanding the genetic blueprint of pests will help us decide how best to manage or eradicate them," Rahul said.

"Researchers around the world will be able to access this key data. It will be Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable according to FAIR data access principles.

"We’re looking to partner with companies, government departments and other research organisations to continue sequencing and collating the genomes of our top pests."

Genomic datasets were developed in collaboration with Macquarie University, University of Melbourne, University of New South Wales, The University of Queensland, University of Western Australia, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and South Australian Research and Development Institute.  

The ARDC and Australian BioCommons (Bioplatforms Australia) are funded by the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS).

The aedes aegypti mosquito.

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