Portable Electronic Nose Revolutionising Plant Pest Detection

The Northern Hub, Charles Darwin University (CDU), in collaboration with the Northern Territory Government (NTG) are delighted to announce the launch of the portable electronic nose (E-nose) to help detect plant pests.

This ground-breaking research project focuses on the early detection of high-priority exotic plant pests using portable E-nose technology. The project aims to revolutionise plant pest management, safeguard agricultural production, and minimise economic losses.

Plant pests and diseases pose a significant threat to agricultural productivity, which contribute to substantial economic losses. Detecting infestations or diseases in their early stages is critical to allow for swift intervention and prevention. However, traditional laboratory-based methods such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) are expensive, time-consuming, and can be destructive.

To address these challenges, the project will evaluate the effectiveness of three commercially available E-nose devices. E-noses are electronic sensing devices designed to analyse volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released by pests and diseases, providing rapid and non-invasive detection capabilities.

“We are excited about the potential of E-nose technology in revolutionising plant pest management,” said Dr Veronica Toral-Granda, a Knowledge Broker from the Northern Hub. “By harnessing the power of E-noses, we can detect pests and diseases at their early stages, allowing for prompt action to prevent their spread and mitigate the economic impact on our agricultural sector.”

The project’s primary focus will be the early detection of high priority plant pests, including ‘Panama disease,’ ‘Banana Freckle,’ and ‘Mango Twig Tip Dieback.’ Researchers from the Plant Biosecurity Branch of the Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade (DITT) will assess the accuracy of the three E-nose devices to assess their suitability in Territory conditions. If successful, these devices could be used by primary and horticulture industry professionals and Indigenous communities, facilitating efficient surveillance efforts and early intervention strategies.

“By leveraging E-nose technology, we aim to generate efficiencies in plant pest detection, narrow down surveillance efforts to key locations, and minimise crop losses,” added Wathsala Ratnayake, project officer for portable E-nose technology from DITT.

“The research project using E-nose technology has the potential to transform plant pest management in the Northern Territory,” said Dr Vinuthaa Murthy, a researcher from CDU. “Dr Hao Wang and I have successfully collaborated with DITT on several biosecurity projects making use of our analytical chemistry facilities at CDU. We are proud to support this initiative that enhances our biosecurity efforts and promotes sustainable agricultural practices.”

This project is supported by the Northern Hub, through funding from the Australian Government’s Agricultural Innovation Hubs Program along with support from Charles Darwin University and the NT Government.

For more information and project updates, please visit our Projects page.


About the Northern Hub: The Northern Hub is a collaborative research initiative bringing together scientists, policymakers, First Nation’s communities, and industry stakeholders to address environmental challenges and support sustainable development in northern Australia.

About Charles Darwin University: Charles Darwin University is a leading Australian university located in the Northern Territory. The university is committed to research excellence and community engagement, driving positive change in the region and beyond.

About the Northern Territory Government, Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade: The Department is dedicated to promoting economic growth, supporting industry development, and fostering sustainable practices. The Department actively engages in research initiatives to enhance biosecurity and protect the region’s natural resources.