NEW research in Western Australia’s northern grainbelt aims to uncover more information about the lifecycle of sclerotinia, in a bid to finetune management of the damaging canola disease.
The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) is funding the research after its Regional Cropping Solutions Network (RCSN) in the Geraldton Port Zone identified more robust rotational crops as a research priority to benefit local growers.
Project supervisor and agronomist Richard Quinlan, of Planfarm, said canola was a significant rotational crop in the medium to high rainfall areas of the zone, but Sclerotinia sclerotiorum infection levels in canola and, to a lesser extent in lupins, seemed to be increasing.
“The disease is absent in drier years but prolific and damaging in wetter years such as 2011, and is most damaging to canola grown on loam and clay soils,” he said.
“Sclerotinia stem infection levels of up to 40 per cent have been recorded in some paddocks, with 30 to 40 per cent yield losses in the most severe cases.”
Mr Quinlan said it was hoped that gaining a better understanding of the lifecycle of sclerotinia would lead to more accurate and precise timing of fungicides applied to control the disease.
“Recent local trial work by the Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) and Bayer CropScience shows that fungicides can be used to economically control sclerotinia, but improved disease control through better fungicide timing may be achieved if we had a better understanding of the life-cycle of the disease,” he said.
Mr Quinlan said the new sclerotinia research would be a collaborative effort involving Planfarm, local agronomists and DAFWA.
“Agronomists will make observations in the field and collect samples, which will be forwarded to Geraldton-based DAFWA plant pathologist Ciara Beard,” he said.
“DAFWA will be responsible for monitoring sites and collecting more information such as rainfall, soil type and temperature data.”
Mr Quinlan said information gathered under the research project would include: When sclerotinia apothecia (fruiting bodies) first appeared in crops and how long they remained; When the first visual symptoms of sclerotinia infection occurred in the crops, relative to the appearance of apothecia; Crop stage, flowering time and petal drop; The rating of canola varieties for relative infection levels and time of flowering. The sclerotinia research in the NAR is one of a number of projects being funded throughout the WA grainbelt by the GRDC as a result of its Rural Cropping Solutions (RCS) initiative.
The RCS initiative aims to help speed up the time it takes for new varieties, practices and technologies to be adopted by growers, ultimately increasing the profitability of the Australian grains industry.
RCSNs each comprise about 12 representatives including a GRDC western panellist, farmers, and representatives from agribusiness and research and development organisations.
They are located in the Kwinana west, Kwinana east, Albany, Esperance and Geraldton port zones.
More information about the RCSNs is available at www.grdc.com.au/rcsg or contact GRDC western panel chairman Peter Roberts on 0428 389 060, or facilitators Julianne Hill on 0447 261 607 and Cameron Weeks on 0427 006 944.