NSW DPI bolsters biosecurity for cotton industry

Chris Anderson
NSW Department of Primary Industries plant pathologist, Chris Anderson, examines one of the samples from this season's cotton crop survey.

A NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) pathology team is continuing to underpin biosecurity and help the cotton industry stay on top of pests and diseases by monitoring crops from Griffith to Goondiwindi.

NSW DPI plant pathologist, Chris Anderson, said the team based at Australian Cotton Research Institute near Narrabri has conducted the twice-yearly surveys for the past 27 years.

“There are a number of exotic pathogens which have the potential to affect local crops and because we’re regularly on the lookout we’re in a good position to spot anything new,” Mr Anderson said.

“The early-season survey has examined more than 14,000 plants in 73 different paddocks and fortunately we didn’t find any exotic diseases.”

Mr Anderson said the introduction of Texas root rot, cotton leaf curl virus, blue disease or hyper-virulent bacterial blight strains could devastate the industry if not dealt with quickly.

Results from the survey have found seedling mortality caused by the pathogens Rhizoctonia solani and Pythium highest in the Macquarie Valley (39 per cent) and lowest in the Macintyre (24 per cent).

According to Mr Anderson black root rot was found in 52 per cent of crops across the State with the disease peaking at 66 percent of plants in the Namoi.

“High levels of black root rot were also evident in the Lachlan and Macquarie Valleys, 57 and 64 per cent of fields respectively, which reinforces the need to continue monitoring the pathogen in those southern valleys.

“We’re also tracking fusarium and verticillium wilt, wire worm, hormone damage and chemical-burn.”

The bi-annual survey helps farmers and researchers keep their fingers on the pulse and with cotton plantings at nearly 150,000 hectares, an increase from 60,000 in 2007, it’s important to closely monitor what’s going on in the field.

“Our next survey will take place in April and we’ll be able to see then how effectively growers were able to use the early-season data to address crop management issues.”

Data from the survey, which is funded through the Cotton Research and Development Corporation and the Cotton Catchment Communities Cooperative Research Centre, helps to prioritise research directions and direct resources to where they will be most effective.