All stops out to curb wheat virus

Dr Gordon Murray and Dr Michele Schiffer - hot on the trail of wheat streak mosaic virus and wheat curl mite at the NSW DPI trial site near Young.
Dr Gordon Murray and Dr Michele Schiffer - hot on the trail of wheat streak mosaic virus and wheat curl mite at the NSW DPI trial site near Young. (High-resolution image available)

All stops are out now that researchers from NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI), University of Melbourne and the private sector have united to curb the devastating wheat streak mosaic virus (WSMV).

When WSMV was first detected in some central, southern and north-western wheat crops last year it cut yields by up to 100 per cent.

NSW DPI Young district agronomist, Paul Parker, said the aim was to work out the most effective ways to manage the virus.

“In this trial we are examining the way WSMV spreads so we can provide the best advice on how to manage next season’s wheat crop,” Mr Parker said.

“We know the virus is spread by the wheat curl mite (WCM) and seed-borne infection, now we’re exploring the extent of the spread and impact of grazing.”

Evidence from last season showed that the greater the amount of grazing, particularly by sheep, the higher the level of WSMV in the crop.

“One ungrazed crop with a very low-level of WSMV won the State-wide field wheat competition at 7.3 tonnes per hectare, while some grazed crops were total wipe outs,” he said.

“Grain & Graze, which uses dual purpose wheat, is just taking off across NSW and we hope this trial will help it keep going as an important component of our grazing enterprises.”

NSW DPI plant pathologist, Gordon Murray, said the Young trial was using three different seed sources which were also being evaluated in glasshouse trials at Wagga Wagga.

“We’re using seed which is WSMV-free, seed from low-level infected crops and one which had high-level WSMV,” Dr Murray said.

“The site is useful because it’s bordered by a grassy roadside verge which could serve as source of WSMV and WCM.  We aim to map virus distribution to work out how much WSMV is moving in from outside and how much comes from seed-borne infection in the crop.”

Along with NSW DPI resistance trials at Coolah, laboratory research in Tamworth and input from NSW DPI and Landmark agronomists, the aim is to get as much data as possible to farmers prior to the next growing season.

The research is partly funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation and involves a study of WCM being undertaken by Dr Michele Schiffer from the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Environmental Stress and Adaptive Research.