A NEW campaign launched today by the Australian Cereal Rust Control Program (ACRCP) is encouraging growers to be proactive and plan their 2011 rust management strategy now in response to the worst disease risk in nearly 40 years.
The campaign – called the Rust Bust – is supported by the Grains Research & Development Corporation and gives growers tips on more effectively managing rust and adopting a ‘select and protect’ strategy.
ACRCP Consultative Committee chairman Grant Hollaway says where possible, growers need to select wheat varieties that have improved disease resistance and adopt management strategies that protect themselves, their neighbours and their industry.
“This year, wheat growers face an unprecedented risk of stripe, stem and leaf rust because of increased inoculum levels in crops during 2010 and the potential for carry over on volunteer plants, called the green bridge, thriving following high summer rainfall,” he said.
“Variety selection along with disease management this year will be crucial to minimise disease risk because a rust outbreak can slash grain returns by more than half.
“The ultimate goal of the campaign is to encourage growers to phase out susceptible and very susceptible varieties from their rotation where possible but if these cultivars are grown, then farmers need a management plan ready in advance in case of a rust outbreak.
“Growing varieties with resistance to rust is the starting point for rust disease management. Growers must also increase communication with their neighbours to ensure rust management is a group, not individual, effort.”
Dr Hollaway says growers must have a four-part management strategy that extends throughout the year. This includes: Removing the green bridge by mid-March. Growing varieties with adequate resistance to the three rusts. Applying fungicides on seed or fertilisers for rust suppression. Monitoring crops for rust and if needed, applying foliar fungicide for disease control.
“The campaign is being launched on St Patrick’s Day – an occasion known for the colour green – to highlight that growers should now be removing the green bridge,” he said.
"A rust outbreak in Australia has the potential to slash farm incomes which is why it is so vital we plan our response to rust this year at the beginning of the season, rather than waiting for a rust outbreak to occur and then planning a control approach.
“Because of the increased rust risk in 2011, it is critical this year that growers think before they sow.”
Australian Seed Federation’s Peter Neilson – a member of the ACRCP Consultative Committee – says rust susceptible and very susceptible varieties must be responsibly managed if they are part of wheat growers’ rotation.
“We are working to encourage growers to use all the tools available for rust management – and variety selection is a huge part of that,” he said.
“We are happy to be part of this campaign because it brings all parts of the wheat industry together in a united push to reduce our rust risk this year – one of the highest risk years we’ve ever faced.”
The committee’s wheat breeder representative, Russell Eastwood, says in the absence of responsible management packages, growing rust susceptible varieties means growers are at risk of losing grain yield and quality; contributing to increased inoculum production which is also likely to contribute to genetic resistance breakdown.
“Australian wheat growers are facing a high risk of significant stem, leaf and stripe rust outbreaks this season,” he said.
“While breeding rust resistant varieties is part of the ‘select and protect’ process, correct management strategies are essential to ensure we protect the genetic resistance we have in our current varieties.”
GRDC Crop Protection manager Rohan Rainbow says supporting the Rust Bust campaign was a priority for the organisation.
“The entire wheat industry – from grain growers through to breeders and the seed industry – must be on the front foot with regard to rust this year. We cannot afford an outbreak like Australia has experienced previously so prevention of an outbreak must be a key focus.”
The campaign includes a new website – www.rustbust.com.au – which will be a key hub for information on rust prevention and management strategies.