International Polar Year (IPY) Aliens in Antarctica project aims to identify human-mediated pathways for alien propagules into the Antarctic ecosystem (www.aliensinantarctica.aq). As part of this international project, AAD staff examined fresh food and cargo for evidence of propagules prior to shipping south by the Australian Antarctic Program. This report summarises the findings of our food ... inspections.
A total of 2094 items of fresh fruit and/or vegetables were inspected over the season. Of these 89% (1865 items) were deemed 'clean' (ie no evidence of propagules or infections), 191 (9%0 had evidence of fungal infections, and 54 items (2%) had invertebrates, soil or other propagules such as seeds. Apples, cantaloupes, carrots, grapefruit, limes, oranges, potatoes and tomatoes were recorded as consistently having clean rates of 90% or greater over the 07/08 shipping season.
With regard to the food items found with propagules, a number of significant observations were made. The most notable of these was that of the 56 pears examined at the beginning of the season (Voyage 2) only one was deemed 'clean': the remainder (99%) were rotting with blue moulds. Similarly only 11% of onions destined for Voyage 2 and 49% of bananas were 'clean'; the remainder were observed with fungal infections or other propagules. Other notable observations were that some cabbages and iceberg lettuces were contaminated with soil, and live thrips and white flies (Bemisia sp?) were found in two boxes.