Saving canola crops from disease

Efforts ploughed into monitoring and overcoming biosecurity threats to oilseed crops


Biosecurity
Disease in Australia's annual canola crop costs the industry more than $200m. To help reduce this cost, GRDC is funding research to further develop the existing national canola pathology program. PHOTO GRDC

Disease in Australia's annual canola crop costs the industry more than $200m. To help reduce this cost, GRDC is funding research to further develop the existing national canola pathology program. PHOTO GRDC

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Industry monitoring program helps growers keep canola diseases and pests at bay.

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Developing the best strategies to deal with major disease and pest issues in canola crops has been the focus of national research with GRDC investment.

Managing diseases and pests in canola can also have a positive spin-off in helping to control problems in other crop phases of the rotation, such as cereals.

It is estimated the canola industry will produce 6.1 million tonnes of grain per year by 2025. However, without continual control of blackleg and sclerotinia stem rot, it cannot be sustainable or profitable.

The impact of these diseases is expected to increase due to the intensification of rotations and greater amounts of disease inoculum.

The total national estimated area planted with canola in 2016 was 615,661 hectares (northern region), 654,023ha (southern region) and 2,541,302ha (western region). An average of at least 50 per cent was hit by diseases, particularly in the medium to high rainfall zones.

The price per tonne in 2016-17 was $520 and the yield was about 1.4t/ha, averaged across all regions.

With about 15 per cent of the national crop being disease-affected, it it estimated to have cost the industry more than $200 million.

GRDC is funding research to develop the national canola pathology program. This project will monitor all canola diseases and inform farmers how to manage the diseases and risk of yield loss.

It is expected by 2026, 50 per cent of growers who incorporate canola in rotations will increase on-farm profit by 20 per cent each year because they will know about cultivar resistance, epidemiology frequency, distribution and virulence of populations of blackleg, sclerotinia and other diseases in canola.

GRDC is also investing in control of root lesion nematodes (RLN) nationally.

Nematodes are common and crucial for soil health, but they feed on the roots of major crops such as wheat, barley and canola.

If conditions are conducive, nematodes multiply and can cause yield losses of up to $200m in a bad year.

WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) senior nematologist Sarah Collins says to reduce nematode populations, growers should manage weeds, keep up crop nutrition and use diagnostic service such as the PREDICTA B soil testing service. This has been upgraded thanks to GRDC investment.

Dr Collins says growers are advised to rotate crops with lupins and field peas and mixed farmers can use serradella as pasture crops.

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