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Bug menace modelling for wine award

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WA’s Hamish McKirdy is using economic modelling to help tackle one of the wine industry’s most-feared invasive pests, the brown marmorated stink bug.

He became the winner of the Wine Australia Award at this week’s Science and Innovation Awards for Young People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, announced at the Canberra ABARES Outlook.

A PhD student and research assistant at Murdoch University, he is working to find the most effective fumigation treatment for the pest which, if introduced to Australia, could severely damage vines.

Hamish McKirdy
Hamish McKirdy

The bug is typically managed by fumigating high-risk shipping containers when they arrive at Australian ports. But Hamish felt a piece was missing— being able to weigh the cost of treatment against the likelihood and impact of an invasion.

“The bug was being described as highly-destructive, but no one could give me an exact, quantifiable number as to the amount of damage they were doing,” he said. “It was very disjointed and there were just so many gaps in the information.”

Helped by one of the country’s top biosecurity risk experts, he will create a cost-benefit analysis for the wine industry modelling the price of treating shipments — including the cost of the chemicals, application and flow-on effects.

“There’s such a strong financial aspect to any biosecurity measure that for me this is key to understanding the whole picture,” he said. “Going forward, I’ll be able to not only recommend the treatment, but I also back it up with the hard data to say, financially, this is going to be the most viable method for both industry and government.”