News & Media

Saint Patrick’s Day Green Bridge survey

Released on

Released on:
Monday, 16. March 2020 - 9:30

Broadacre farmers who received recent rainfall are encouraged to join the leprechauns and check their paddocks for pests and diseases on the ‘green bridge’ around Saint Patrick’s Day on 17 March.

Survey efforts will not only inform weed and crop regrowth control measures but also contribute to a new crop disease surveillance project being undertaken by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD).

The project, which has co-investment from the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), aims to measure the presence of endemic diseases of cereals, oilseeds and pulses, as well as support surveillance for exotic pathogens.

The information will help to refine management strategies to reduce the impact of crop foliar diseases and increase crop profitability.

DPIRD research scientist Ciara Beard, who has Irish heritage, encouraged landholders to mark Saint Patrick’s Day – or thereabouts – by checking paddocks for regrowth plants and reporting any signs of aphids and diseases.

“This celebratory day is a great reminder to check paddocks for signs of disease, like cereal rusts and powdery mildew, which can be harboured on weeds and summer volunteers,” she said.

“Growers are encouraged to report any suspect findings via the department’s MyPestGuide - Crops Reporter or Pestfax Reporter apps so our staff can collect surveillance data and assist with diagnosis.

“In this way, rather than relying on the luck of the Irish, growers can be proactive by planning weed and disease control strategies and setting up their crops for a good growing season.”

The research project, which commenced last July, has already undertaken more than 250 surveys on commercial cropping properties from Northampton to Esperance during the 2019 season, with plans to undertake more over the next 12 months.

Department staff from around the grainbelt will also be undertaking paddock surveillance in coming weeks to support the research.

The surveillance, is being supported by extensive sampling to quantify the incidence and severity of endemic diseases and checking for new pathotypes across the grainbelt.

“The project also includes spore trapping in the lower Great Southern and Albany port zone, to provide an early warning of risk for diseases like net blotch, powdery mildew, rust and loose smut,” Ms Beard said.

“Weekly updates on disease presence in the region will be provided during the growing season via the department’s DPIRD broadacre twitter account and the PestFax e-newsletter to assist growers to make informed decisions and implement timely and effective control measures.”

Ms Beard said despite the drier than average conditions in 2019, there had still been interesting disease observations.

“The 2019 survey revealed high incidence of the endemic stubble-borne diseases yellow spot in wheat, spot type net blotch in barley and septoria avenae blotch in oats across most port zones, although in many cases severity of these diseases was lower than in previous seasons,” she said.

“Low incidences and severity of wheat and barley powdery mildew and wheat leaf rust were found in the southern region and Ramularia Leaf Spot was again detected at a small number of locations in the Albany port zone.

“These observations highlight the importance of continued surveillance to stay on top of disease risks so growers can undertake effective control measures.”

The surveillance program will also assist the department’s biosecurity efforts to demonstrate area freedom from diseases exotic to Australia.

“Area freedom is crucial to secure market access, which gives the Western Australian grains industry a market advantage over its international competitors,” Ms Beard said.

It is crucial for the ‘green bridge’ to be removed, via spraying or grazing, at least one month prior to the start of the cropping program, to reduce the carryover of pests and diseases, with at least two weeks free of vegetation prior to sowing.

The Water Corporation reminds farm businesses that require access to large volumes of water for crop spraying to do so through designated high capacity local government standpipes to prevent potential impact on other drinking water supply scheme users.

Strategic Community Water supplies are primarily available for stock watering to prevent animal welfare issues but local governments do have several high flow standpipes available where larger volumes for spray water can be acquired. Check with local shires for access.

Water distribution points set up in the Southern Agricultural area as part of the State’s water deficiency declaration response are only available for emergency livestock water use.

More information and strategies on controlling the ‘green bridge’ and managing crop diseases is on the department’s website, which includes crop rotations, variety choice, fungicides and stubble management.

To stay up to date with the outcomes of the Saint Patrick’s Day survey and ongoing disease observations sign up to the department’s free PestFax newsletter by visiting agric.wa.gov.au.

Woman in a leprechaun outfit in a paddock with green weeds.
DPIRD research scientist Ciara Beard urges landholders to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day by checking their paddocks for signs of pests and diseases on the weed and crop regrowth ‘green bridge’.

Media contacts:

Jodie Thomson/Megan Broad, media liaison                        

+61 (0)8 9368 3937