THE damaging fungal disease, Ascochyta blight, has flared in chickpea crops across the northern farming zone as a long run of wet conditions ramps up disease pressure on this year’s record planting.
Speaking at the Australian Pulse Conference in Tamworth on Tuesday, NSW Department of Primary Industries senior plant pathologist, Kevin Moore, said the combination of wet, humid weather and heavy crop canopies provided ideal conditions for fungal disease.
“Ascochyta is increasing in incidence since we first found it on June 22. It is now at a point where pretty well every chickpea crop in north-eastern Australia is infected with Ascochyta,” he said.
“Most crops have had three fungicide sprays, many have had four and a few have had five. They’d be the early planted ones or chickpeas-on-chickpeas.
“But most growers are on top of it. The trouble is if it keeps raining we are going to run out of chemical.”
As another rain front passes through eastern Australia over the next couple of days, Dr Moore said ideal conditions had also developed for the potential outbreak of another serious chickpea disease, Botrytis grey mould, which “could only be a week away”.
“The conundrum with Botrytis grey mould is that the conditions that favour Botrytis grey mould in chickpeas are the same conditions that make it difficult to get the fungicide into the crop canopy,” he said.
“The chickpea plant itself is nowhere near as susceptible to Botrytis grey mould fungus as crops like lentils, blueberries, strawberries. But, the big, thick, dense canopies like we have this year are what favours Botrytis grey mould in chickpeas. How do you get a chemical into a canopy like that?
“What really worries me is with this rain event that is coming through with up to 2 inches (50mm) of rain, the big crops will go over and fall down. And once they fall down the Botrytis will smash them.”
Further reports from the Australian Pulse Conference will appear on Grain Central over coming days.