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Satellite to help fruit farmers in Australia

Satellites will be used to monitor the health of orchards to prevent future outbreaks of the crippling citrus canker disease. The state government announced it would make use of the US-owned QuickBird satellites and light aircraft to monitor orchards in the Emerald district as well as unaffected areas of Queensland.

The satellites will use remote sensing imagery to detect infra-red radiation, which will reveal the health of the trees on an orchard. The announcement follows the outbreak of citrus canker three weeks ago at Evergreen Farms near the central Queensland town of Emerald.

The state government announced a ban on the movement of all citrus trees and 10-related plant species, affecting interstate movement of citrus trees and threatening the livelihood of farmers. The ban was lifted recently.

Primary Industries Minister Henry Palaszczuk said the new satellite technology would help detect the exact location of an unhealthy tree, blighted by citrus canker. Healthy trees would show up in red patches on the radar printout, a less healthy tree is yellow, green is even less healthy and a diseased tree shows up as blue.

“This is being used in the peanut industry to look out for diseases and it’s working well,” said Mr Palaszczuk. “If it’s as effective as it is with peanuts then I think it will go a long way in being able to … really identify affected areas in farms and districts which will give our teams the opportunity to move into those areas quickly.”

The surveillance will cost $7 million over the next two years. The QuickBird satellites orbit the earth at an altitude of 450 kilometres, but their high resolution images can detect objects as small as 60 centimetres.