Delivering billion dollar benefits to Australian agriculture and biosecurity by working in Montpellier, the world’s largest Mediterranean and International Agricultural Research campus, and an international centre of health research.
Agricultural trading partner countries face many similar challenges. These include new emerging pests, vectors and diseases spread by trade and people movement, declining efficacy and desirability of agro-chemicals, a globally changing climate, and greater water constraints threatening food security.
Cutting edge biosecurity is the key to overcoming these challenges and ensuring human wellbeing, agricultural production and growing trade opportunities are not lost. Through agricultural, biosecurity and health science we can prevent the creation of non-tariff trade barriers, sustain increases in crop productivity and reduce the human risks of emerging infectious diseases. To achieve these ambitious goals, research organisations and industry bodies from around the world must work together in collaboration.
French and other EU institutions have worked with Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation), for decades. The CSIRO European Laboratory (CSIRO-EL) has been based in Montpellier for over 50 years. An increasing number of pests and diseases are shared between Europe and Australia, many originating in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. These shared challenges have long made us natural partners in creating solutions to global biosecurity, agricultural and health issues.
The CSIRO-EL works alongside USDA Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), EMBRAPA, CGIAR and other international agencies as part of Agropolis International, a world class collaboration and innovation hub.
We collaborate directly with USDA, INRA, SupAgro, CIRAD, IRD, CNRS and MUSE University partners on impactful applied collaborative research on pests and weeds of international importance.
CSIRO-EL trains local PhD, Masters and honours students with several students based at the facility each year.
It’s also generated nearly $1.4 billion of benefits for Australian agriculture, with a return on investment of at least 27:1.
Biological control of invasive plantsFor agricultural and environmental weeds of European and North African origin CSIRO-EL surveys the native range of the plant to identify, select, risk assess, efficacy test, rear and ship biological control agents . This work has been funded, supported and valued by Australian industry since the late 1960’s.
The laboratory undertakes research that cannot be done in Australia. It is based on CSIRO and French science capability and key infrastructure including laboratories, glasshouses and a small containment facility.
This core research has generated $1.4 billion of benefits for Australian farmers, similar benefits for Australian natural ecosystems; and provided translational benefits for European, New Zealand, South African, US and Canadian partners.
Pre-border biosecurity and biological controlPre-border biosecurity research cannot be undertaken in Australia and yet is vital for evaluating potential risks and impact should such organisms be introduced. The CSIRO-EL allows Australia to conduct biosecurity research on key pest threats before they arrive in the country. Pests of European origin or already present in Europe can be worked on in semi-natural conditions to better understand biology, crop variety susceptibility, disease vector competence and the genetic basis for hostplant resistance. For example CSIRO-EL led a ten-year GRDC project to protect Australia from the potential impacts of Russian wheat aphid, considered the greatest invertebrate pest threat to the Australian cereal industry. When the pest arrived in Australia in 2017 resistant local cereal cultivars were already known.
Future key targets for Australia include Xylella fastidiosa; brown marmorated stink bug (“punaise diabolique”) and fall armyworm.
CSIRO-EL has also been the centre of invertebrate biological control research, most recently against Mediterranean snails, a key pest and export barrier for Australian grains into Asia.
The Australian National Dung Beetle Program is legendary. From the 1960’s to 1990’s more than 40 species of dung beetle were imported and released into Australia to help bury the more than 80 million tonnes of dung produced each year by Australian livestock and valued at A$13B.
If not for the program, dung would remain on the ground taking up valuable agricultural land, and act as a breeding ground for livestock pests and bush flies. The successful establishment of 23 dung beetle species in the first phase of the program helped the great Aussie BBQ through bush fly suppression along with a multitude of other beneficial ecosystem services.
As Europe was the origin of many of these beetles CSIRO-EL was the hub for identification, selection, biology, rearing and shipment activities. Twenty years on CSIRO-EL is continuing to supply more complementary dung beetles for Australia.