The global Covid-19 pandemic has brought human interactions with other animal species to the fore.
But what about our interaction with plants? Thanks to modern technology, grains, fruits, vegetables and other plants can end up on the other side of the world from where they are native.
A growing awareness of these “alien” invaders “has seen areas of land cleared of trees in many provinces.
But for the inexperienced eye, another alien invasion is taking place on a microscopic level: every imported agricultural product can inadvertently become an insect, a mite or a virus beyond the borders of SA smuggle away.
And according to a recently published study, almost a third of the products are contaminated by pests.
Davina Saccaggi, formerly Stellenbosch University, and colleagues analyzed an extensive data set of imported plant products that had arrived in SA between 1994 and 2019.
These products, 25,279 in total, have been tested by the Department of Agriculture and the study shows that “ 30% tested positive (which means that they ha d at least one contaminant), while 13% had multiple contaminants. “
Of the 13,731 registered contaminants,” Fungi (41%), mites (37%) and insects (19%) were the most common “.
This dataset and analysis “may inform strategies for risk assessment, pathway management and biosecurity protocols,” say the researchers who identified a “major stumbling block” as the lack of a “long-term record keeping system”.
This means that there was little idea of what to expect or what to look for.
“ Every inspection is a matter of personal knowledge and experience specific to that crop, commodity or entry point. Without general knowledge and long-term records, there is no way to analyze historical trends or predict future patterns, ”Saccaggi said.
rigid hard drives or on CDs, “this information is now being recorded by researchers in the hope of correcting the situation.
“We are in the process of modeling this data to find consistent predictors for patterns that can be used to customize sample and inspection reports. This will improve SA’s ability to find and stop pests on imported goods, ”she said.