Key transboundary plant pests of Coconut [Cocos nucifera] in the Pacific Island Countries – a biosecurity perspective

Nitesh Datt1, RC Gosai1, K Ravuiwasa2, V Timote3

1Biosecurity Authority of Fiji, Suva, Fiji
2Fiji National University, Nausori, Fiji
3Pacific Community, Suva, Fiji

Abstract:

The movement of plant pests and diseases from one continent or country to another by-passing physical boundary is as ancient a menace as the drift of people themselves. Many of these species pose a direct threat to food security, with progressive socio-economic perils affecting people’s livelihoods. The National Plant Protection Organisation of a country is vested with legislative powers to prevent the incursion of such species through the implementation of proactive measures such as risk assessments, monitoring, surveillance and controlling human-aided pathways. The unfortunate event of an unwanted incursion brings with it challenges of early detection and immediate implementation of eradication measures which are further compounded by capability gaps and funding constraints. The eradication success is often determined by quick execution of appropriate emergency response measures and flexibility to scale operations when needed. Even with extensive and exhaustive eradication efforts applied, the National Plant Protection Organizations often face unfavourable results. Coconut is an extremely important subsistence and economic plant for almost all island nations in the Pacific. In this view, existing transboundary pests of coconut in the Pacific Islands basin, namely Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle-Guam biotype, Coconut Lethal Yellowing phytoplasma and the Coconut Cadang-Cadang viroid, pose more than a significant threat to countries free of these pests and which have put regional National Plant Protection Organizations on high alert.


Biography:

Nitesh Datt graduated with Masters in Science (Plant Pathology). He has 16 years of work experience in agriculture as a Teacher/Lecturer and plant pathologist since 2014. Since 2016 he has worked for the Biosecurity Authority of Fiji – a National Plant Protection Organization of Fiji in the capacity of Principal Plant Protection Officer. His key responsibilities in the current role are coordinating pest risk analysis, coordinating pest surveillance and early warning system, coordinating investigation and response against incursion, conducting internal training, and developing SPS measures to facilitate trade. Currently, he is completing his PhD studies in molecular virology from China Agricultural University, Beijing.

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