MyPestGuide Reporter – disease diagnosis in the digital age

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Conference Title

Staying Connected for Plant Health: Australasian Plant Pathology Society Online Conference 2021

Place of Publication





MyPestGuide™ Reporter is a biosecurity screening tool which allows the public to submit field reports of pests and diseases via a smartphone app or computer. It provides critical biosecurity surveillance information as a component of surveillance activities conducted by the Department of Primary Industry and Regional Development Western Australia (DPIRD). Reports consist of up to four photographs, the GPS location and the reporter’s description of damage symptoms. In 2021, 6891 reports were submitted and most of these related to insects, with some weed and vertebrate pest reports. Reports are triaged before a team of plant pathologists review the images and respond to each submission where plant disease is suspected. In 2021, pathologists identified diseases in 204 reports and attributed 192 reports to non-pathogenic causes such as nutritional deficiency or drought. Some limitations are intrinsic to the identification of plant diseases from photographic images. Diagnosis can be challenging due to the diversity of hosts, quality of the photographs and imprecise information provided by some reporters, who may or may not be biologically trained. However, experts utilise their knowledge of host and pathogen groups, symptomology, personal field experience, historic species lists and extension publications, and call on specialist knowledge from researchers, agronomists and lab diagnosticians where necessary. The likelihood of detecting target quarantine organisms is increased by ensuring diagnosticians are aware of key symptoms. In addition, samples can be requested for laboratory diagnosis if a quarantine pathogen is suspected. Accuracy of diagnosis is greatest for pathogens with distinctive symptoms like rusts and smuts and the confidence level of diagnoses are recorded with categories ranging from “possibly” to “certain”. Advantages of MyPestGuide™ Reporter include the ability to retain image records for future review and the use of submitted photographs to provide evidence of absence for selected target pathogens. For example, all Myrtaceae reports are examined for signs of myrtle rust (Austropuccinia psidii), which is absent from Western Australia. MyPestGuide™ Reporter provides a flow of surveillance data to DPIRD and a useful service to the public, demonstrating that diagnostics through image analysis is a valuable tool for the digital age.