Plant industries research

Plant Industries is committed to improving the profitability and sustainability of the agriculture, horticulture and forestry industries through research, development and extension. We work collaboratively with farmers, industry groups, universities, research organisations, and other State and Commonwealth agencies across Australia and internationally. The following information lists the current Plant Industries research.


The entomology team focuses their research on effective management systems for economic pests based on integrated pest management approaches using biological, chemical and cultural methods of control.

Entomology: A fruit fly on a mango

New fruit fly systems for mangoes and market access

An ongoing research project looking at various aspects of fruit fly mitigation from population ecology, suppression trials, cage trials and oviposition studies. The main aim is to investigate the host status of hard mature mangoes at commercial harvest.

Mango Leafhopper management

Studies on the population ecology of mango leafhopper under various conditions and studies on non-chemical methods of control, including insect pathogens and attractants.

Mango Fruit Borer

Research into the identity and biology of the mango fruit borer. This includes DNA studies of the species in NT and countries in SE Asia, and collaboration with an overseas laboratory to develop a bait based on the insects sex pheromone.

Termite management

Research on the management of the giant northern termite (Mastotermes darwiniensis) and other termites attacking horticultural and forest crops in NT.

Northern Territory Economic Insect Reference Collection (NTEIRC)

The entomology team manages and studies this important research collection which contains over 47,000 accessions of insects and mites from crops in the NT. The data from the collection form part of the national Australian Plant Pest Database.

Plant pathology

This team identifies and characterises previously unreported plant pathogens, and researches how to manage pathogens and protect our important industries.

Plant pathology: A series of photos of rust from infections to spores under the microscope

Banana Plant Protection Program

Research to develop of a plant protection program for bananas, assessing different varieties for pest resistance. Evaluate disinfectants and their efficacy in killing the Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense spores. Develop a quantitative real time Polymerase chain reaction  (PCR) assay to detect the fungus in soil, in collaboration with the South Australian Research and Development Institute.

Characterisation and Management of Fusarium Wilt of Watermelon

Research to characterise and understand Fusarium Wilt of watermelon This includes characterising the Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. niveum race that is causing watermelon wilt in the NT; evaluations of rootstocks and seedless watermelons to their susceptibility to Fusarium infection, improved molecular diagnostics and the effect of temperature on affected watermelon plants.

Characterisation and identification of plant pathogens

Research to identify and characterise previously unreported pathogens.

Molecular Diagnostics

This team utilises modern biotechnology and applies it to develop molecular diagnostic tools to assist in the rapid detection of plant pests of important economic crops. The team provides technical expertise in the molecular discipline for the Plant Industries Development Division.

Molecular diagnostics: A range of agar plates

Improved Management Options for Cucumber Green Mottle Mosaic Virus (CGMMV)

Key research areas to determine the importance of weed, non-host plants and honey bees in CGMMV disease epidemiology; evaluate the potential for in-field diagnostics to assist in rapid detection of the virus on farms. This research will develop multilingual communication materials to assist cucurbit growers with management options, including on-farm biosecurity protocols.

Investigating the molecular mechanisms behind flowering in Magnifera indica (Mango)

This team supports a PhD research project to investigate the molecular mechanisms behind flowering in mangoes, what genes are triggered and what proteins are expressed at the optimal time and whether these conditions can be manipulated.

For more information read the Investigating the molecular mechanisms behind flowering in Mangifera indica fact sheet (602.6 kb).

Nucleic acid accessions including the phytoplasma reference collection

The molecular team manages the SE Asian/Northern Australia phytoplasma reference collection and it is the biggest of its kind in Australia with over 4500 DNA accessions. In addition, the collection also holds thousands of nucleic acids from NT biosecurity incursions from mango malformation, Fusarium wilt of watermelon, Panama Wilt, African mahogany angular leaf spot, banana freckle, Cucumber green mottle mosaic virus, mango leafhopper, fruit flies and mango fruit borer. The collection also holds DNA samples from Plant Industries research projects.

Crop diversification

The Crop Diversification Team undertakes strategic research, development and extension to develop cropping systems suited to the range of environments in the NT. This cropping systems research builds on the past decades of crop variety and agronomic research to deliver diversified options for Territory agricultural businesses.  Extension and industry development are key components of the work of the Crop Diversification Team.

Crop diversification: A common pasture grass -Tully

Central Australian Horticultural project

Investigate the potential for new and existing horticulture industries in Central Australia.

Improved Pastures research

Investigate new pasture genetics for tropical environments. Engage the grazing industry in cropping options to diversify agricultural production on pastoral leases.

Cropping system for tropical Northern Territory

Use crop simulations and in-field crop agronomy to develop farming systems and crop rotations that are suited to the climate, soils and irrigation options. This work aims to assist current producers become more profitable and sustainable, while reducing investment risk for new producers.

New crops

Testing new crop species for inclusion in existing farming operations and new varieties for the development of new agricultural industries in the NT.

Sustainable farming systems

This team works closely with farmers  and scientists across plant industries commodities to measure and understand  sustainable nutrient and water use and to aid continue improvement in  production quality and quantity. Our research considers the whole-farm system  to enable plant industry enterprises to better manage their natural resource  and adapt to the changing environment.

Sustainable farm systems: Automatic gas chambers sampling for greenhouse gas emissions

Optimising nutrient  management for improved productivity and fruit quality in mangoes

Management  strategies to increase the quantity and quality of mango yields, whilst  effectively mitigating loss of fertiliser applied nitrogen (N) to the  environment. The research team will use stable isotopes to quantify plant N  demand, soil supply and current practice N use efficiency (NUE) to develop best  management practices for optimising N fertiliser use, including enhanced  efficiency fertilisers (EEF). The project aims to maximise NUE in the  Australian mango industry to increase productivity, profitability and good  environmental management.

Investigating the possible contribution of nutrients towards the development of Resin Canal Disorder (RCD) by evaluating the composition or balance of nutrients in mango fruit.

For more information:

Land use mapping

Data  produced in this project will generate free mapping products that are  fundamentally important to farmers, industry groups, developers and many  others. The team is part of the first major update to the Territory's land use  maps in over 10 years, it will identify how much land, and which areas, are  devoted to all land uses. The output will facilitate better biosecurity risk  management and emergency disease preparedness, inform decisions about regional  development.

Australian Tree Crop Rapid Response Map

The Queensland Department of Science and Environment released the Australian Tree Crop Rapid Response App in November 2017.  The App identifies the location of all mango, macadamia and avocado in Australia and provides the relevant industry bodies and government agencies a powerful tool for responding to biosecurity outbreaks and for post- disaster monitoring.

Land Use Maps for the Northern Territory

Newly updated land use maps covering the NT's 1.35 million square kilometres are now available.

The new maps will assist the agricultural sector make informed decisions about what crops to grow, where to grow them, and the availability of water. The maps detail how much land, and which areas, are devoted to horticulture, urban areas, Aboriginal uses, forestry, animal industries and more.

Maps are available at the at the NRMaps web portal.

Agricultural  viability within the North Australia Water Resource Assessment

Most of northern Australia’s land and  water resources have not been mapped in sufficient detail to support reliable  resource allocation or to mitigate investment or environmental risks. The team  is part of a collaborative project to produce information to enable private  investment and government spending on development to be soundly targeted and  designed, and to ensure that net sustainable development benefits are  maximised.

Silvicultural  systems to optimise value from northern Australian Mahogany Plantations

This  project will identify the silvicultural inputs necessary to optimize the value  of the African mahogany (Khaya senegalensis ) from existing and future  plantations in northern Australia, by determining the impact of silvicultural  inputs (pruning, mid-rotation thinning and fertilization) on the log and wood  quality of the Northern Territory’s African mahogany for the market  specifications, whilst ensuring the profitability of Territory forestry  growers.

Tropical horticulture

Working in partnership with plant industry enterprises, this team provides research development and extension services that increase profitability and sustainability by enhancing productivity and product quality of our important horticultural commodities.

Tropical horticulture: A field of hybridised curcumas

Manipulating mango flowering to extend harvest window

Develop management practices with a view to manipulating the mango harvest window.

This project covers a number of different approaches including manipulating floral induction with growth promoting foliar sprays.

For more information read the Manipulation of mango flowering fact sheet (476.6 kb).

Another approach under investigation is the use of tip-pruning to influence bud development. This project takes advantage of the progressively cooler weather in Katherine to understand the effects of night temperatures on developing mango buds, potentially manipulating fruiting times, and improving productivity and profitability for mango farmers.

For more information read the Impact of pruning time on bud and shoot development (maturity) in Honey Gold and Calypso mangoes in Katherine fact sheet (569.3 kb).

Ornamental research program

Investigate the further development of ornamental Curcuma hybrids for commercialisation and the production of new varieties through mutagenesis.

Building a resilient mango industry in Cambodia and Australia through improved production and supply chain practices

This project has a team of plant scientist from floral biologists, plant nutritionists, entomologists, pathologists, molecular diagnosticians in NT and Cambodia to optimise management strategies and increasing integrated pest management work in the region.

For more information read the Building a resilient mango industry in Cambodia and Australia through improved production and supply chain practices fact sheet (1.0 mb).

Last updated: 27 March 2018

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