Diagnostic testing helps NSW deal with crop disease

Author: Sarah Jeffrey | Date: 31 Oct 2016

Grain growers in New South Wales can access expert assistance with disease management in the lead up to harvest by submitting suspect plant samples for diagnostic testing funded through the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) levy.

With some areas of the state experiencing their wettest September on record, growers with viable crops are well aware that vigilant disease management will be key to maximising yield in cereal and pulse crops.

While routine crop monitoring throughout the successive stages of crop growth is vital for disease detection, the GRDC is also urging growers to take samples of suspect plants and send them to the relevant authorities for testing.

Correct diagnosis of a disease is critical if growers are to implement an effective and appropriate control program that delivers a worthwhile return on investment.

Diseases on the `watch list’ in cereal crops this season include stripe, leaf and stem rust. Rust remains a priority investment for the GRDC which for more than 10 years has funded landmark rust research and development projects such as the Australian Cereal Rust Control Program (ACRCP).

Rusted plant samples should be mailed in paper envelopes, not plastic wrapping or plastic-lined packages, to Australian Cereal Rust Survey, The University of Sydney, Plant Breeding Institute, Private Bag 4011, Narellan, NSW, 2567.

A variety of information on the identification of wheat rusts and management strategies can be found on the GRDC-supported Rust Bust website and Rust Bust can also be followed on Twitter at @the_rustbust.

The identification of other fungal cereal diseases such as yellow leaf spot (tan spot), net blotches, scald and septoria tritici blotch can provide valuable information to help with crop rotation planning, variety and paddock selection for subsequent seasons. It also provides invaluable information for GRDC’s crop disease surveillance programs to stay in-front of changes in pathogens to guide breeding efforts and the potential development of fungicide resistance.

Additionally, any winter cereal crops (wheat, durum or barley) which are showing signs of disease in heads should be sampled and sent away for testing by NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI).

Cereal disease diagnosis can be obtained by sending an infected tissue/plant sample in paper packaging – paper bags, envelopes or wrapped in newspaper – to Dr Steven Simpfendorfer, NSW DPI, 4 Marsden Park Rd, Tamworth NSW 2340; email, 0439 581 672 or Dr Andrew Milgate, NSW DPI, Wagga Wagga Agricultural Institute, Pine Gully Road, Wagga Wagga NSW 2650, 02 6938 1999.

Disease identification and management has been high on the priority list for NSW pulse growers in recent months with high levels of Ascochyta blight, Sclerotinia and Botrytis grey mould (BGM) detected in chickpea crops during autumn and early spring.

While crops are currently benefiting from the drier, warmer conditions, this could change quickly with the onset of another rain event. Any growers wanting further information on chickpea disease identification and management should contact NSW DPI senior plant pathologist Dr Kevin Moore on 0488 251 866 or 02 6763 1100, fax 02 6763 1222 or email or visit the GRDC-supported eXtension AUS website. If infection is suspected, growers should wrap the plant material in newspaper and send to Dr Moore NSW DPI, 4 Marsden Park Rd, Calala NSW 2340.

Disease alert calls have also been extended to NSW lupin growers following the identification of lupin anthracnose for the first time in southern NSW.

If suspect lupin anthracnose symptoms are evident, growers are advised to call the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881. Photographs of symptoms can support suspect identification - photographs of symptoms, with a brief explanation and contact details can be sent to this email.

Plants suspected of having lupin anthracnose should be sampled and sent for diagnosis using the following procedures:

  • Sample plants that show symptoms
  • Sample the upper stems, around the flower spikes, include pods if present
  • Wrap the plants in damp (not wet) paper towel and double package and seal in either a plastic container and a ziplock bag, or two ziplock plastic bags.
  • Send the sample by express post early in the week. A cold pack is not needed.

Samples should be sent to: Dr Kurt Lindbeck, NSW DPI, Wagga Wagga Agricultural Institute, Pine Gully Road, Wagga Wagga NSW 2650, ph: 02 6938 1608. All samples should be accompanied by a lupin anthracnose sample submission form.

For more information, download the Exotic Pest Alert: lupin anthracnose from the biosecurity section of the NSW DPI website.

Contact Details 

For Interviews
Sharon O’Keeffe, GRDC manager grower services, north
0409 279 328


Sarah Jeffrey, Senior Consultant Cox Inall Communications
0418 152 859

Region North