NEW blackleg nurseries and monitoring sites have been established in Western Australia this year under increased Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) investment into the damaging canola disease.
Under the national GRDC project ‘Australian national blackleg rating system’, the number of WA nurseries investigating blackleg resistance in canola has increased from two to four.
As part of an additional, new national GRDC project ‘Staying ahead of blackleg’, WA also has four new ‘monitoring sites’ in the grainbelt which will help researchers predict the development of resistance-breaking strains of the blackleg pathogen.
Work under the GRDC projects in WA involves the Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia (DAFWA), The University of Melbourne and Steve Marcroft, of Marcroft Grains Pathology, Victoria.
DAFWA plant pathologist Ravjit Khangura, who is overseeing blackleg research in the State, said WA was Australia’s biggest canola producer, with 858,000ha planted this year.
She said blackleg was the State’s most damaging canola disease, causing yield losses of up to 30 per cent.
Dr Khangura said blackleg nurseries were located at Northam, Katanning, Boyup Brook and Esperance.
“Canola cultivars from advanced breeding lines and existing varieties are being tested at these nurseries to determine blackleg resistance,” she said.
“Data from WA will be combined with information from other States so canola varieties can be ranked according to their resistance to blackleg.
“This will lead to improved information being made available to growers, and the production of new varieties with improved resistance.”
Dr Khangura said the new blackleg monitoring sites, mostly on growers’ properties, had been established at Katanning, Broomehill, Kojonup and Esperance.
“Six different varieties, with different blackleg resistance rankings and sources of resistance, have been planted at these sites,” she said.
“More information is needed about the different types of blackleg strains, and these trials will help us identify the virulence of different strains of blackleg, as well as genes associated with blackleg resistance in different canola varieties.
“Molecular testing work for these trials is being conducted by The University of Melbourne.”
Dr Khangura said that in any instances of high blackleg severity in WA, particularly in resistant varieties, blackleg spores from these sites would be sent to The University of Melbourne for testing.
“This will help to determine which resistance genes may be broken by the pathogen and consequently help identify the varieties at risk of losing their resistance in a particular region,” she said.
A fact sheet on Managing your risk of blackleg in canola can be found on the GRDC website at www.grdc.com.au/managingblacklegreport
Resources are also available through DAFWA at www.agric.wa.gov.au/cropdisease, including a Canola Blackleg Disease risk forecast.