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 four working groups that contribute to SPHD, together with an Executive Group. The working groups include the Diagnostic Protocols Working Group (DPWG), the Network Implementation Working Group (NIWG), the Reference Collections Implementation Plan Working Group (RCIPWG) and the Surge Capacity Working Group (SCWG).

SPHD and Working Group members at SPHD meeting 29, Hobart October 2019.

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 Protocols Working Group (DPWG)

The DPWG is responsible for the review and update of the SPHD Reference Standards for the development of diagnostic protocols. It oversees the development of National Diagnostic Protocols (NDP), monitor advances in technology and ensure reference standards remain current allowing new methodologies to be incorporated.

Network Implementation Working Group (NIWG)

NIWG is tasked with progressing the National Plant Biosecurity Diagnostic Network (NPBDN) to strengthen diagnostic capacity and capability across Australia. It is responsible for the driving national plant health diagnostic professional development initiatives, improving communication and connections between network members, and increasing nationally consistent arrangements through the implementation of the NPBDN.

Reference Collections Implementation Plan Working Group (RCIPWG)

The RCIPWG is responsible for the delivery of the National Reference Collections Strategy Implementation Plan

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.


SPHD Achievements

Achievements of SPHD include:

  • The National Plant Biosecurity Diagnostic Strategy
  • Development of 42 endorsed National Diagnostic Protocols
  • A further 81 draft NDPs
  • Reference Standards to facilitate the development of NDPs developed in line with ISPM No.27 (Diagnostic protocols for regulated pests)
  • Development of Peer Review and Verification checklists for the development of NDPs
  • Implementation of proficiency testing for plant health laboratories
  • Contribution and revision to a NATA Field of Application Document (FAD)
  • Input into the development of new import conditions for positive controls for High Priority Pests

Current projects include:

  • Continued development of NDPs
  • 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]