Afghanistan: hot spot for black spot by Eammon Conaghan

RESEARCH DELVING back to agriculture's origins in Afghanistan and China eould help field pea growers curb the yield slashing effects of black spot and capture the financial rewards of the $300/t crop.

Field pea is popular based on steady prices and the crop's agronomic value in rehabilitating paddocks and as a rotation. But its long-term viability has been threatened by the fungal disease black spot, which typically cuts yields by 10- 20 per cent, and in bad cases can completely wipe out the crop.

To the rescue, the WA-based Centre for Legumes in Mediterranean Agriculture (CLIMA) is reviewing 350 promising lines from Russia's Vavilov Institute, of which more than 100 offer potential sources of resistance. "Rather than enduring the expense of importing all of the Institute's 3,000 field pea lines to Australia, seed was sent for screening to Ethiopia, where black spot is endemic," said CLIMA's Deputy Director, Clive Francis.

Project scientist Tanveer Khan, of the WA Department of Agriculture, recently returned from Ethiopia where he identified 20 more lines with potential black spot resistance. Most were collected originally from Afghanistan and China, two of the world's first agricultural regions and home to some of its most genetically diverse crops.

Building resistance

This diversity is important because black spot resistance is cumulative and best developed by pyramiding genes from different backgrounds.

Resistant lines would allow growers to defy the high earlyseason black spot risk and enjoy the benefits of a longer growing season, which (ideally) could bolster yields by up to 50 per cent.

Program 2 Contact: Professor Clive Francis 08 9380 2505