The Australian Cereal Rust Control Program: protecting Australia's winter cereals from current and future rust threats by Professor Robert Park, University of Sydney, Plant Breeding Institute Cobbitty

Stem rust epidemics in wheat in south-eastern Australia in 1973 caused huge losses and significant hardship to many growers. In recent years, problems have been encountered with leaf rust of wheat, particularly in WA.

THE GRDC recently approved a five-year initiative in the battle against cereal rust diseases which draws together expertise and resources from the Uuiversity of Sydney Plant Breeding Institute at Cobbitty (PBIC), the CSIRO Division of Plant Industry in Canberra, and the International Centre for Wheat and Maize Improvement (CIMMYT) in Mexico. Known as the Australian Cereal Rust Control Program (ACRCP), the new project builds on a former long-term, industry-funded national program which achieved considerable success in assisting Australian cereal breeders to incorporate genetic resistance to rust diseases into cereal varieties. The ACRCP is also closely involved in GRDC-funded cereal rust research at the University of Adelaide and at the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI). An important feature of the program is the close integration of research activities with cereal breeding, which ensures that research outcomes find their way to farmers' paddocks.

Given the right climatic conditions and susceptible varieties, rusts can cause untold losses. Some growers may remember the losses incurred in the 1973-74 season, when wheat stem rust caused $100-$300 million in losses in south-eastern Australia. Northern NSW and Qld were spared from the ravages of this epidemic by the cultivation of genetically-resistant varieties. Because they can spread so readily, these "social diseases" require a nationally coordinated control effort.