Campaign urges growers to report anything unusualWee Waa student wins GRDC award for trainingStorage research has big dollar benefit

A new awareness campaign has been launched by Plant Health Australia which urges growers to report any unusual pests or diseases in their crops.

In the grains industry Karnal bunt – controversially used by Pakistan to reject an Australian wheat shipment – has been identified as one such exotic disease of which graingrowers should be aware. Karnal bunt is not present in Australia, but if an incursion occurred the annual losses are estimated at $500 million a year, in the worst case scenario.

A recent workshop established a national diagnostic standard for Karnal bunt, which is a fungus that infects wheat grains at flowering. The grain is partially or completely replaced with a black powder which smells like rotting fish. These symptoms can be confused with common bunt and some other grain diseases, but PHA would prefer growers to be safe than sorry.

If growers observe this or any other potentially exotic disease or pest, they are encouraged to call the Exotic Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.

Wee Waa’s Vanessa Cain has won the Northern Region GRDC Agricultural Training Award for 2004.

Ms Cain intends using the $5000 award to continue her Diploma of Agriculture Course at Dalby Agricultural College. Now in her second year, Ms Cain is studying the ‘Integrated Pathway’, a general course encompassing cropping and livestock electives, before returning to the family farm, Wattle Vale, at Wee Waa: “The course will allow me to introduce new grains into our existing cropping rotation, as I wish to continue the predominantly grains-based income,” Ms Cain says.

Graingrowers can expect a return of more than $20 for every $1 invested in storage research, according to chief of CSIRO Entomology, Dr Joanne Daly.

Dr Daly says an independent cost-benefit analysis of CSIRO’s research into stored grain predicted an annual return of $87 million for the Australian grains industry.

“The survival of the grains industry in Australia is still fundamentally linked to its relationship with the grain storage industry,” says Dr Daly.

CSIRO recently signed a new Stored Grain Research Agreement worth $9.25 million over the next five years.

Global GM canola increases for seventh year in a row Global GM canola plantings increased in 2003 for the seventh consecutive year, and now make up 16 percent of the global canola crop.

Area sown was up 20 percent, according to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA).

“Farmers continue to rapidly adopt biotech crops because of significant agronomic, economic, environmental and social advantages,” ISAAA Chairman Clive James says.

GRDC Western Region Panel chairman and Hyden grower Dale Baker says although the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator had cleared GM canola crops for Australian release, state government moratoria may still limit the adoption of GM crops in Australia.