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Workshops to offer insights into soil-borne diseases

How to identify crown rot and other soil-borne diseases will be the focus of workshops being held during the next few months across Australia.
Photo: GRDC

A three-year, $900,000 national project initiated by 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 GRDC.

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 grower group, FarmLink Research, with support from the Grower Group Alliance (GGA) in Western Australia 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, says the project has 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 says.

“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 says the workshops will also offer information on disease management, which can include selection, paddock planning, break crop use, biological, chemical and cultural tactics and other agronomic approaches to reduce the risk of root and crown disease.

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

The NSW workshops will be held at:

The WA workshops will be held at:

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.

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