Canola growers receive app assistance

A new app incorporating recent research is being developed to assist canola growers in the management the risk of the fungal disease Sclerotinia stem rot.

Currently, Sclerotinia is the most unpredictable disease threatening the state’s canola crops and can affect up to 20 per cent of the crops across the Grainbelt.

Research undertaken by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, supported by the Grains Research and Development Corporation, has investigated the temperature range which triggers the crop infection.

Sclerotinia is caused by the fungus Sclerotinia sclerotiorum, capable of surviving in the soil between seasons as a ‘fruiting’ body.

Germinating in cool conditions, the stem rot produces tiny mushroom-like bodies, releasing spores that spread in the wind and infect canola crops through the flower petals.

Department research officer Ciara Beard said the team had identified the temperature range for different regions at which germination of sclerotia occurs, an element crucial to the apps’ output.

“We found that germination of sclerotia is favoured in temperatures ranging from 10 to 20°C, while no germination was detected at high temperatures from 16-29°C,” she said.

“Under favourable conditions of 10 to 20°C and ongoing moisture, apothecia can be produced multiple times, surviving from two to five weeks over a three month period, potentially placing crops at risk for some time.”

Ms Beard said the laboratory findings could be applied to different regions in a bid to pinpoint when the crops are at risk of infection.

“In an average year, assuming sufficient moisture, cooler regions, like Esperance, could expect sclerotia germination from May to October, while warmer regions, such as Mingenew, are likely to be at risk from June to September,” she said.

“If this period overlaps with the flowering window, the risk of stem infection is elevated.”

Data from the research is being incorporated into the app, which is able to determine whether canola paddocks are at risk of the infection in a particular season.

The app is expected to be tested later this year and be available in time for next year’s growing season on both Android and iOS devices.

Ms Beard said the app would assist canola growers in decisions regarding management and fungicide strategies in an effort to reduce economic losses as a result of the disease.

More information is available on the Grain Industry Association of Western Australia’s website