Countries around the world have agencies dedicated to the attempt to stop, or at least slow, the transfer of non-native plant and animal pest species from one country to another. Pests and diseases caused by them, such as Chestnut blight, Dutch Elm disease, gypsy moths, Emerald Ash borer, Asian Long-horned beetles, Pinewood nematodes, and many, many others are all pests that came into this country at one time or another, usually in the importation of commercial goods, or the transplanting of non-native nursery stock. Pest scientists have dedicated the last century to helping governments identify these potential pests and putting in place treatment and quarantine measures to help reduce their movement in the world. The big danger is, of course, another uncontrollable epidemic that wipes out a whole species from a continent, such as when American Chestnut was wiped from the North American forest.
In 2002, at the advice of the newly-formed IFQRG, a new international standard was adopted to help slow the transfer of forest pests. Known by its acronym ISPM-15, this standard provided guidance to countries on the treatment of wooden pallets and packaging materials. Two methods were approved for use in the original standard, heat treatment and fumigation with methyl bromide. However, methyl bromide was targeted for elimination by the international document known as the Montreal Protocol, and was mandated for phase-out in the United States by the Clean Air Act. Therefore, heat treatment of wooden pallets and containers, as well as logs, lumber, chips, and other wood products, has been by far the most common implementation of ISPM-15 around the world.
Here at Penn State we are conducting research into the environmental and economic impact of various phytosanitary treatments, including heat treatment, methyl bromide, and alternatives, such as pallets made of plastic and other materials. We're also working with other researchers in the U.S. and Canada to develop new alternative treatments involving the use of radio-frequency drying techniques. John Janowiak and I from Penn State attended the IRQRG meeting in Canberra to update and discuss with the assembled group our findings. In particular, we went to support the approval of a guidance on microwave treatment as an alternative to traditional heat treatment.
OK, that was a pretty big nutshell. I shared it as a backdrop for the story I'm about to relate on my visit to AQIS, the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service, at their Sydney headquarters. Dr. David Nehl, Regional Program Manager of Operational Sciences in the Central East Region of AQIS, was my host and tour guide for the day. We first visited the Port of Sydney, at the area where AQIS does its inspection work. The Port Botany area, as it is called, is being expanded, and the video below is a pretty interesting presentation on how that is being conducted.
PBE Update December 2010 from Sydney Ports Corporation on Vimeo.
Too many other great port shots to share here....