PREDICTA B DNA-based soil tests across northern NSW and southern Queensland so far this year suggest the risk of crown rot and root lesion nematode (Pratylenchus thornei) for 2017 crops is similar to 2016, with 26 per cent and 49pc of paddocks recording medium to high risk levels respectively.
Caused by the fungus Fusarium pseudograminearum, crown rot is widespread in wheat, barley and durum paddocks in central and northern NSW and southern Queensland and can have a serious impact on yields.
Over the years trials have shown that with high infection, yield losses can be more than 50pc but importantly, even at low inoculum levels, yield losses of 25pc can still occur if the season is favourable.
The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) is urging growers across NSW and Queensland looking to minimise the threat of crown rot infection this season to `stay vigilant’.
It’s no casual reminder – crown rot is one of the most serious disease threats to winter cereal crops in Australia and growers are being encouraged to weigh up their crown rot risk when planning this year’s winter cropping program.
The GRDC has released a series of simple videos which detail pathogen behaviour, disease symptoms, where and when to assess crops, how to identify the disease and management options.
Available on the GRDC’s YouTube channel www.YouTube.com/theGRDC or by following these links to part 1 and part 2, the videos feature interviews with NSW Department of Primary Industries senior plant pathologist Steven Simpfendorfer who is renowned as one of Australia’s leading experts in crown rot research.
Dr Simpfendorfer encouraged growers to assess the inoculum levels of individual paddocks so long term management plans could be enacted to reduce the risk of crown rot infection and crop yield loss.
“There’s nothing you can do in-crop to limit crown rot infection, most of the management decisions are upfront in terms of crop and variety selection and stubble management,” he said.
“But in terms of assessing inoculum levels, growers can look from late tillering onwards to see if there’s browning of the outer leaf sheath. This will become very apparent from flowering to grain fill if the crop is under moisture stress.
“Immediately post-harvest is a good time to visually assess the crop – if you can see the basal browning on the stubble residue then that’s a heads up on what your inoculum levels are for the coming few years.”
Crown rot is a stubble-borne disease and for a plant to become infected it must come into contact with inoculum from previous winter cereal crops.
It infects through the base of the plant and restricts the movement of water up the stem throughout the season.
While basal browning is very characteristic of crown rot, as the season progresses the expression of the disease is impacted by moisture and temperature stress during grain fill and often results in the appearance of whiteheads.
Soil and plant water potential, soil nitrogen and inoculum loading all influence the extent of crown rot infestation and yield loss can occur even without the formation of whiteheads. Whitehead formation is most severe in seasons with a wet start and dry finish.
“Once you identify a crown rot issue, it’s important to accurately assess inoculum levels and determine whether you are in low, medium or high risk with the stubble load,” Dr Simpfendorfer said.
“That’s when you need to consult your agronomist to put long term management plans in place using crop rotation and variety selection.”
The PREDICTA B testing service is offered through the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) and provides an indicator of root lesion nematode populations and crown rot risk which is useful prior to planting to establish the level of disease risk crops are exposed to and if alternative crop types or varieties should be grown.
However, it is important to remember that using the correct sampling technique is critical to its accuracy. It isn’t a simple add-on to a soil nutrition test.
For information on PREDICTA B sampling recommendations visit the SARDI website www.pir.sa.gov.au or contact Crown Analytical Services to arrange a PREDICTA B test on 0437 996 678 or email [email protected].
For more information on identifying and managing crown rot, watch the GRDC’s `Know More’ videos and visit the GRDC-supported eXtension AUS website www.extensionaus.com.au.