Fungus could be cause of dieback

Early research findings show fungus could be cause of pasture dieback


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Pasture dieback on a property at Biggenden earlier this year. The problem now spreads as far south as Beaudesert.

Pasture dieback on a property at Biggenden earlier this year. The problem now spreads as far south as Beaudesert.

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Early research findings have indicated a fungus could be responsible.

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EARLY research findings into pasture dieback indicate it may be caused by a fungus, which if proven correct, doesn’t have a simple cure and could see producers forced to find management techniques to overcome the problem.

A team of five external researchers with backgrounds in agronomy, plant pathology and microbiology, have been working with MLA to identify the cause of the problem which has impacted up to 90 per cent of some producer’s pastures. 

The team have been taking field samples, replicating their growing environment in a lab and testing a number of pathogens to identify the one responsible. 

Over the past two-and-a-half years, areas from Cairns down to Beaudesert have been affected with both introduced and native grasses at risk. 

The issue heightened in November last year and while it laid dormant during the dry winter, it is believed to have taken off again after the spring rain. 

MLA R&D program manager, Doug McNicholl, said researchers would do further testing and hope to diagnose the problem pathogen in the next three to six months. 

But, he said “with the available information at this point in time lends us to think it is a fungus”.

“We will be focusing on what management practices could be employed to some affect. We know that a number of producers have been employing management practices to varying degrees of success.”

Things like burning, slashing, grazing management, application of fungicide and cultivation are some of the methods producers have been trialling.

MLA have been working with producers on management practices to try and combat the problem in the interim.

MLA have been working with producers on management practices to try and combat the problem in the interim.

Mr McNicholl said one way the spores could be transmitted was during high winds or transported through cattle and human movements. 

“At this point in time we are not aware of a cost effective method that will solve the problem,” he said. 

“Producers may want to start undertaking some of their own investigative work of how they can mitigate and control the growth and proliferation of fungus in their grasses.

“There are things like getting the balance right between ground cover and biomass growth because there will be some micro climates that allow rapid growth and travel of fungus.”

It is understood about 40 properties were part of the current research work with DNA sequencing used on some of them. 

MLA and their external researchers will attend three AgForce forums next week to discuss the issue. 

To report pasture dieback contact info@mla.com.au 

The story Fungus could be cause of dieback first appeared on Queensland Country Life.

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