Guarding the crop against diseases

Calls today for increased global investment into research and development to prevent the spread of potentially devastating crop diseases have been welcomed by Australia’s Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).
Nanjing Night Net

GRDC chairman Keith Perrett says a recently-released report by an international team of researchers, warning that the strain of stem rust known as UG99 remains a threat to world crop production, serves as a timely reminder of the need for ongoing funding of cereal crop protection research.

Mr Perrett says significant Australian research dollars have been and will need to continue to be directed towards research and development (R&D) aimed at halting the spread of – and ultimately eliminating – rust diseases such UG99.

“GRDC, on behalf of Australian growers and the Australian government, each year invests $30 million in an extensive portfolio of crop protection research projects and initiatives right around the globe,” Mr Perrett said.

“GRDC has long recognised just how critical it is to address crop protection issues as potentially destructive as UG99, so we welcome any investigations and reports that underline to the broader community the importance of work being carried out in this area and the need for all countries to contribute to funding. As the world population grows at a rapid rate, secure food production remains a fundamental priority for us all.

“Australia plays a pivotal role in not only producing safe and healthy grain that is sought by domestic and international markets, but is also an important player in terms of providing dollars, resources and expertise to enhance global R&D into long-term food security.”

Mr Perrett said that given the threat of cereal rust to food security, Australia has adopted a nationally co-ordinated approach to rust control since rusts are airborne, pathogenically variable and sporadic in their occurrence.

“GRDC is the key funder of the Australian Cereal Rust Control Program (ACRCP) involving various research agencies from the University of Sydney, CSIRO Plant Industry, University of Adelaide, plus all state departments of agriculture, among others.”

GRDC has in place a strategic management plan for cereal rust control and has committed to an investment of up to $6 million per year until 2017.

“About two-thirds of that investment is in pre-breeding and integration into breeding of rust-resistant varieties,” Mr Perrett says.

Mr Perrett says the cost of stem rust to the grains industry in Australia is estimated to be $8 million, but without current management strategies that cost would be as much as $478 million.

“But it’s not just stem rust that we are concerned about,” Mr Perrett says. “The GRDC approach is to look at all strains of rust. In fact, stripe rust is the rust disease which presently has the most economic impact in Australia.”

Mr Perrett says the GRDC remains committed to investing in research, development and extension in areas which matter most to Australian growers, the broader grains industry and consumers.

o GRDC chairman Keith Perrett.

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