White heads scattered through moisture-stressed crops have been a common sight over the past few years. There is a fair chance these were caused by crown rot, the fungal disease that blocks the "plumbing system" at the base of infected tillers, preventing water supply to the heads. Crown rot, common root rot and, in some areas, Fusarium head blight are all increasing with intensive cereal rotations, reduced tillage and stubble retention.
In response to this, the GRDC funded a Strategic Initiative on these three diseases in July 2002. The Initiative is coordinated nationally by Dr Steven Simpfendorfer from the NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI).
The four-year Strategic Initiative aims to provide an integrated and coordinated approach to improving the management of crown rot, common root rot and Fusarium head blight. Results to date suggest the Initiative is achieving its aims, with more communication and collaboration between researcher groups and improved up-take of new disease management practices by growers. For example, collaboration between researchers has allowed all projects under the initiative to use molecular diagnostic techniques developed by SARDI to assist in refining this new technology throughout different regions of Australia.
The Initiative encompasses seven projects across four states but also facilitates communication with other research teams within the area that are not directly funded under it, such as the CIMMYT, molecular marker program. In this feature, Ground Cover looks at some of the outcomes achieved by the participants in the Strategic Initiative.
The following reports have been compiled by researchers working in the initiative: