The Subcommittee on Plant Health Diagnostics (SPHD) aims to sustain and improve the quality and reliability of plant pest diagnostics in Australia. SPHD achieves this by:

  • Coordinating the development of National Diagnostic Protocols for priority plant pests
  • Developing and implementing the National Plant Biosecurity Diagnostic Strategy within the framework of the National Plant Biosecurity Strategy and the Intergovernmental Agreement on Biosecurity
  • Coordinating the National Plant Biosecurity Diagnostic Network
  • Assisting the development of diagnostic tools and material
  • Facilitating and coordinating the delivery of training to diagnosticians
  • Facilitating the progression of laboratory accreditation and proficiency testing

SPHD is a subcommittee of Plant Health Committee (PHC) and includes representation from the Australian, state and territory governments, Plant Health Australia, CSIRO and the New Zealand Ministry of Primary Industries.

The full list of SPHD members can be found on the Discover our Work page.

Operating Guidelines

To view the operating guidelines for SPHD you need to be a member of the network and logged in.


SPHD Working Groups

There are five working groups that contribute to SPHD, together with an Executive Group. The working groups include the Diagnostic Standards Working Group (DSWG), the Network Implementation Working Group (NIWG), the Reference Collections Working Group (RCWG), the Surge Capacity Working Group (SCWG), and the Surveillance Diagnostics Working Group (SDWG).

Executive Group

The Executive Group is the governing body of SPHD and includes the Chair, Deputy Chair, the Executive Officer and may draw on specific expertise within the subcommittee as required. It is responsible for ensuring the effective operation of the subcommittee and its working groups.

Diagnostic Standards Working Group (DSWG)

The DSWG is responsible for:

  • the identification, facilitation, assessment, approval and review of national diagnostic standards for emergency plant pests
  • identifying diagnostic training needs and coordinating the national plant diagnostic scholarship program
  • drafting guidelines and reference standards for the development of National Diagnostic Protocols.

Network Implementation Working Group (NIWG)

NIWG is tasked with with coordinating the development of the National Plant Biosecurity Diagnostic Network. This is facilitated primarily through the delivery of the Annual Diagnosticians Workshop, which brings together plant biosecurity diagnosticians from around the country to network and undertake training activities. Other activities undertaken by NIWG to support the implementation of the NPBDN include the development of this website, implementation of network governance and the strategic planning and communication of network activities such as residential programs and training workshops.

NIWG was responsible for the development of the National Plant Biosecurity Diagnostic Strategy to enable the delivery of a strong and robust diagnostic system in Australia into the future.

Reference Collections Working Group (RCWG)

The RCWG is responsible for developing a strategic approach to the long-term viability of plant pest reference collections. The terms of reference will include ensuring validity of pest records and identifications, managing misidentified and uncatalogued specimens, resourcing of facilities, staffing and curatorial responsibilities, developing linkages between collections and diagnostic laboratories, and the role of the Australian Plant Pest Database.

Surge Capacity Working Group (SCWG)

The SCWG is responsible for determining how diagnostic capability and capacity can be effectively utilised across the NPBDN to deliver a surge capacity in the event of an emergency response.

Surveillance Diagnostics Working Group (SDWG)

The SDWG is responsible for determining the requirements and guidelines for diagnostic protocols to directly support surveillance programs.


SPHD Achievements

Achievements of SPHD include:

Current projects include:

  • Continued development of NDPs
  • Development of a governance framework for the National Plant Biosecurity Diagnostic Network (NPBDN)
  • Proficiency testing and promotion of quality management systems for plant health laboratories
  • Training for plant health professionals.

SPHD Reference Standards

Reference Standard 1 – Glossary of Terms

Lists terms, definitions and abbreviations with specific meaning for Australian plant health systems.

Reference Standard 2 – Development of National Diagnostic Protocols – Procedures for authors

Provides guidelines and instructions to authors for the development of a diagnostic protocol.

Reference Standard 3 – Guidelines for development of National Diagnostic Protocols

Provides guidelines for the approval process that diagnostic protocols undergo.

Reference Standard 4 – Guidelines for Review, Verification and National Diagnostic Protocol Review

Provides guidelines and instructions for conducting a verification process and undertaking a peer review of diagnostic protocols.


Communiques from Subcommittee on Plant Health Diagnostics meetings

SPHD Communique 26 (3-5 May 2018)

SPHD Communique 25 (10-11 October 2017)

SPHD Communique 24 (6-7 April 2017)

SPHD Communique 23 (11-13 October 2016)

SPHD Communique 22 (3-4 May 2016)

SPHD Communique 21 (17-18 September 2015)

SPHDS* Communique 20 (13-14 May 2015)

SPHDS Communique 19 (7-9 October 2014)

SPHDS Communique 18 (12-14 May 2014)

SPHDS Communique 17 (16-17 October 2013)

*the name was formerly the Subcommittee on Plant Health Diagnostic Standards


Contact SPHD

SPHD can be contacted through the Executive Officer, Subcommittee on Plant Health Diagnostics (SPHD)

National Plant Health Policy Branch
Department of Agriculture and Water Resources
GPO Box 858, Canberra ACT 2601 Australia
Ph: +61 (0)2 6272 4688
Email: [email protected]