Workshops to offer insights into soil-borne diseases

A three-year, $900,000 national project initiated by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) has been developed to help grain growers across the country identify and manage the impact of the major soil-borne diseases in winter cereal crops.

Soil-borne diseases are a significant constraint to farm profitability in Australia costing wheat growers alone an estimated $521 million annually in lost production, according to research by the GRDC.

The GRDC’s ‘Soil pathogen identification and management strategies for winter cereals’ project will use practical workshops and demonstration trials to help equip growers and advisers with the latest knowledge to effectively manage soil-borne diseases and in turn improve crop productivity.

Led by New South Wales (NSW) grower group, FarmLink Research, with support from the Grower Group Alliance (GGA) in Western Australia (WA) and grower groups in Victoria, NSW and South Australia, the project will offer interactive training. This training will include sessions explaining the typical symptoms of cereal root diseases, how to sample plants, the key plant root characteristics for diagnosis, the use of DNA testing (PREDICTA®B), as well as management options.

GRDC Crop Protection Manager – West, Georgia Megirian, said the project had been developed in response to industry calls for improved understanding of management strategies to minimise the impact of some of Australia’s most significant crop diseases.

“The most common soil-borne diseases that impact cereals include crown rot, Rhizoctonia, root lesion nematode, cereal cyst nematode and take all. These pathogens affect a plant’s root system limiting the uptake of water and nutrients, which impacts yield,” she said.

“A key part of this project is sharing the latest GRDC research and development outcomes so growers understand when, where and why soil pathogens might pose a threat and know what they can do to mitigate that risk and protect crop yields.

“But diagnosing plant diseases, particularly from soil-borne pathogens that infect plant roots, can be difficult. Growers and advisers tend to rely on above-ground symptoms, yet it can be challenging to distinguish between the various soilborne pathogen infections without examining the roots and understanding different disease symptoms.

“We know from existing research that effective management of soil-borne diseases can significantly improve crop yield.”

Ms Megirian said the WA workshops would include information on disease management, which may include varietal selection, paddock planning, break crop use, biological, chemical and cultural tactics and other agronomic approaches to reduce the risk of root and crown disease.

Alan Umbers is managing the project for FarmLink Research. Mr Umbers said GGA had organised a series of workshops in WA in partnership with The Liebe Group, West Midlands Group, Merredin and Districts Farm Improvement Group (MADFIG), Stirlings to Coast Farmers, Southern Dirt and South East Premium Wheat Growers Association (SEPWA).

The WA workshops will involve presentations by Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) cereal pathologists Dominie Wright, Sarah Collins and Daniel Huberli.

Growers attending are encouraged to bring plant specimens from paddocks where they suspect root disease may be present.

The WA workshops will be held at:

  • Merredin – August 3 2021 (hosted by MADFIG)
  • Dandaragan – August 17 2021 (hosted by WMG)
  • Dalwallinu – August 18 2021 (hosted by The Liebe Group)
  • Esperance – September 2 2021 (hosted by SEPWA)
  • Kojonup – September 8 2021 (hosted by Southern Dirt)
  • Albany – September 9 2021 (hosted by Stirlings to Coast)

More details for workshops can be found on the GRDC events page.

The project has also established a series of demonstration sites where a selection of disease management tactics will be evaluated. Field days at these sites will be held in spring offering growers and advisers an opportunity to see the impact of different management strategies on disease levels. Where possible, yield data will also be gathered from these sites to help evaluate the effectiveness of different strategies.

Source: GRDC

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