Crops under threat from nasty fungal disease

Staff ReportersGeraldton Guardian
The seed and soil-borne fungus flag smut.
Camera IconThe seed and soil-borne fungus flag smut. Credit: DPIRD/Supplied

A damaging fungal disease has been reported near Geraldton leading the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development to issue a stark warning to wheat growers in the region.

Research scientist Ciara Beard said the department had received several reports of the seed and soil-borne fungus, flag smut, across the grain belt from Yuna to Esperance.

“It is best to look on plant leaves for long raised streaks of sooty black spores, which rub off easily,” she said.

“Affected plants are often stunted ... and do not usually produce grain.”

Ms Beard said the fungal infection of wheat only occurs intermittently and can cost growers dearly in lost yields and downgraded seed quality.

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She said growers in the region should monitor crops for signs of the disease and adopt preventative measures to reduce the risk for next year’s crops. “We have already received a report from one grower who has seen black spores on their header as they are harvesting,” she said.

The department recommends growers with infected paddocks report the infection and regularly wash machinery to avoid spreading the disease.

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