News Who's Who

Tech to take on dieback

Justin Bellanger CEO Southcoast NRM

Military-developed technology might be used in the future fight against the dieback blighting native forests of southern WA.

South Coast NRM CEO Justin Bellanger said technology such as geospatial platforms might be used to fight the soil-borne water mould that clumps around plant roots, starving them. Avocados, most citrus species and nuts, such as almonds and macadamias, can also be infected. Predominantly the spores are spread by human activity: moving infected soils by vehicles, earth-moving or pedestrians, or by natural movement, such as water eroding infected soils.

“Dieback affects some of our important agricultural crops in Western Australia,” Mr Bellanger said. “However, there are some fantastic pockets of dieback-free native vegetation on farms, which have survived because they have been isolated from the predominant vectors of dieback, such as roadbuilding machinery. In addition, isolation and distance have meant that bushwalkers, recreational vehicles, campers and others, have not been to these farming properties. These areas represent a priority future management task.”

Alongside communication are on-ground actions to reduce risks. These include: capping over soils in disease-infested roads, installing boot cleaning stations, signage and training.

Mr Bellanger said: “In the future, we will be looking at investing in new technology. We are starting to look at geospatial applications. We are considering trying to link relevant information about dieback locations into Google Maps. I also think there may be some interesting applications or tools emanating from the military, which we could potentially use to help us manage dieback biosecurity. Another opportunity for us is to consider using environmental DNA to speed up our surveys for the disease. These capabilities, however, are very much in their infancy.”

A video about dieback is at


Featured Image: Justin Bellanger CEO Southcoast NRM