New irrigator improves chickpea disease resistance

A new travelling overhead irrigator at the Horsham SmartFarm is helping researchers find new sources of resistance to field crop diseases.

Agriculture Victoria Senior Research Scientist Dr Joshua Fanning said the Field Crops Pathology group currently screens 17 pulse and cereal diseases at the Horsham SmartFarm. Identifying resistance to disease prevents grain yield and quality losses and reduces the disease management required by growers.

The new irrigator will support this disease screening program and utilise the new wastewater treatment facility previously announced. The irrigator was purchased by Agriculture Victoria with the support of the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), with its primary purpose to support a new chickpea Ascochyta research project.

“Ascochyta blight is the greatest threat to chickpea production in Australia, with all commercial varieties being susceptible to the disease. This means growers need to apply multiple fungicides each year to manage the disease and prevent crop losses,” Dr Fanning said.

“Increased management needs have meant the chickpea production area is shrinking nationally,” he said.

“With this new overhead irrigator, we can screen 20,000 chickpea lines each year to find new sources of resistance that can be used by breeders and pre-breeders to develop more resistant varieties.”

In current varieties Agriculture Victoria research has shown 80 and 90 per cent grain yield losses in susceptible varieties in Victoria without disease control, highlighting the need for integrated disease management in chickpeas.

Looking for improved disease resistance is part of a national effort led by Agriculture Victoria and the Grains Research and Development Corporation to find ways to improve disease management options for chickpea growers.

The irrigator will also contribute to other research trials in Horsham where over 100,000 plant lines are screened for disease resistance across eight different crops and 17 diseases each year.

Using irrigation in the screening process for both cereals and pulses mitigates the seasonal effect, allowing disease epidemics to occur each year. Using the reliable methods at Agriculture Victoria, accurate and reliable disease resistance ratings can be determined. This allows growers to be confident in the disease ratings for each variety and develop an integrated disease management plan based on the ratings.

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