National control program: we couldn't do without it

Robert Park

The National Cereal Rust Control Program, based at the University of Sydney, Plant Breeding Institute Cobbitty (PBIC), started in 1975 following a major epidemic of stem mst in SA, Victoria and southern NSW in 1973. The program established two priorities: to maintain the resistance of Australian varieties to stem rust; and to improve resistance to leaf and stripe rust.

These objectives must be achieved, otherwise farmers will be exposed to significant extra costs and production losses.

It has been estimated, for example, that rust resistance saves the wheat industry from losses of about $300 million a year, and that the cost of spraying the Australian wheat crop for the three rusts would be $160 million annually.

The National Cereal Rust Control Program's efforts against rust also include annual national rust surveys in which rust samples are collected and identified at PBIC. These surveys provide an early-warning mechanism to alert growers to the occurrence or increased frequency of new strains of rust.

The National Cereal Rust Control Program also offers rust-testing services to all public and private wheat-breeding groups in the country.

Based on the successful control of wheat rusts, the Plant Breeding Institute is also endeavouring to control rust diseases in oats and other cereals.

Program 2.6.4 Contact: Dr Robert Park 02 9351 8806