A senior plant pathologist says Australian farmers need to set up strong defences to keep out viruses transmitted by whitefly.

One industry has already fallen victim to a transmitted virus. Tomato yellow leaf curl has crippled tomato crops across Queensland in the past.

Australia's 300 melon growers suffer whitefly infestations, usually partway through the season in warmer weather, but are lucky enough to have so far escaped a virus.

Cherie Gambley works with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and says the problem is becoming bigger globally, particularly in Florida.

She says there are entry pathways into Australia, and industries have to establish management strategies to tackle viruses should they enter through infected plant material.

Last year, DAFF Queensland ran a workshop with international guests, and continued work on a small project with Bowen tomato growers into implementing area-wide strategies.

"They range from cultural practices, so reduction of weeds... bio-control agents to reduce the insect populations, strategic use of chemical through insecticides... and looking at the genetics of the crop so you can look at resistance and tolerance," Mrs Gambley said.

She shared her work at a melon conference in Bundaberg yesterday.

As for whitefly itself, Chinchilla grower Darryl O'Leary says it hasn't been a problem yet this early in the season, but he expects it worsen about March.

He turns to the weather to help control the problem, but he's not confident the nature of melon farming will allow for eradication.

"Some years they'll turn up and absolutely decimate you, and other years, you'll get away with it.

"The more melon you grow, the more host plants you have, it'll just carry on and it'll just build up over time and it'll be just the norm."

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