WA project will help combat barley powdery mildew

25 Feb, 2010 01:12 PM
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Inspecting barley leaf samples for mildew growth is Madeline Tucker, honours student and research assistant at the Australian Centre for Necrotrophic Fungal Pathogens (ACNFP) at Murdoch University.
Inspecting barley leaf samples for mildew growth is Madeline Tucker, honours student and research assistant at the Australian Centre for Necrotrophic Fungal Pathogens (ACNFP) at Murdoch University.

Research funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) will help breeders to produce barley varieties with new forms of resistance to Western Australia’s most damaging barley disease – powdery mildew.

Richard Oliver, director of the GRDC supported Australian Research Centre for Necrotrophic Fungal Pathogens (ACNFP) at Murdoch University and deputy chairman of the GRDC western panel, said the research aims to pinpoint suitable resistant genes for use in breeding programs.

“We think we have a number of solutions that could be deployed by current breeding programs,” he said.

A poster presentation on the ACNFP project titled Viable solutions for barley powdery mildew disease will be presented at the 2010 Agribusiness Crop Updates by ACNFP research assistant Madeline Tucker.

Convened by the Grains Industry Association of WA (GIWA) on behalf of the Department of Agriculture and Food and the GRDC, the Agribusiness Crop Updates will be held on February 25 and 26 at the Burswood Convention Centre.

Barley powdery mildew, caused by the fungus Blumeria graminis hordei (Bgh), causes annual losses of $33 million to WA’s barley crops.

The disease is well studied and can be controlled by the use of resistant genes in barley and the application of fungicides.

Professor Oliver said one major source of resistance – the mlo gene – has remained fully effective in conferring resistance against barley powdery mildew.

“However, it seems this gene may cause a yield penalty and breeders resist its incorporation into new cultivars,” he said.

“The other sources of major resistance have a history of breaking down in a very few years.

“So we need to find alternative genes which will provide new varieties with a different form of resistance to powdery mildew.

“It is particularly important to find new ways of combating barley powdery mildew as growers are dangerously dependant on a single class of fungicides.

“The GRDC funded research by ACNFP will result in improved knowledge of barley powdery mildew which will help to identify new ways of controlling the disease.”

Professor Oliver advised farmers to protect barley against powdery mildew by using an integrated approach including the use of resistant cultivars and fungicides.

“We’d also like to know where the disease occurs despite fungicide application, and farmers who suspect cases of fungicide resistance in their crops can contact me on 0414 305 999,” he said.

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