A humble stick insect stole the show when Primary Industries minister Niall Blair came to Orange on Friday to announce funding for the Agricultural Research Station.
The giant prickly stick insect and a giant burrowing cockroach provided the entertainment as Mr Blair announced $1.2 million would be spent upgrading and digitising the Department of Primary Industries’ entomology and plant pathology collections.
The $100 million DPI biosecurity collections, which have about 500,000 specimens dating back to 1890 are the largest in Australia.
“They are incredibly important to industries and the environment,” he said.
“They are the official pest and disease record for NSW – if a plant pest or disease is detected, a representative specimen must be lodged with the collection.”
Mr Blair said the collections were “irreplaceable” and needed to be digitally photographed, recorded and stored for easier access.
“This will create a very large data set that provides a reference for the diagnostic services the DPI provides [to] industry and producers.”
Collections curator Peter Gillespie said the money would help them make the collections more accessible.
We hope that we can very soon be able to swing a cat in there which will be a very useful thing.Peter Gillespie, DPI collections curator
“We’ll be able to better manage the collections, space is at a premium at the moment and we hope that we can very soon be able to swing a cat in there which will be a very useful thing,” he said.
“We cover almost all lower groups, we’ve got all insects, mites, other invertebrates, there’s snails, we have a bunch of fungii, virus, bacteria, nematodes, all these things that affect a wide range of particularly horticultural crops, but we also do some veterinary work,” he said.
“We work on a lot of insect pests that are found on cattle and sheep and various other organisms.”
Mr Gillespie said staff at the Agricultural Research Station on Forest Road did a lot of research into new animals and species and also assisted trade.
“We can give assurances to trading partners, for example, when they want to buy cherries from this local area, we can give them assurances about where fruit flies are that might impact them, but we can say they are not here as we have records that prove it,” he said.
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