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Published: 20 Sep 2022

Dr Warwick Gill is a leading authority on mushroom diseases.

This TIA-led research project has developed an extensive library of resources for the Australian mushroom industry.

Like all crops, mushroom yields can be adversely impacted by pests and diseases. However, mushrooms lack protective skins, as well as the defence compounds often produced by parent plants. Moreover, treating disease with fungicide is clearly problematic for a fungus! Added to this is a short cropping cycle, leaving little time to treat diseases mid cycle.

Prevention is better than cure very much applies here.

Over the last five years, Warwick Gill from the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture and Judy Allan have led the levy funded project MU 16003 Pest and disease management and research services, creating an exhaustive and detailed body of knowledge for the Australian mushroom industry.

The team has researched and collated information on current and emerging mushroom pests and pathogens, as well as how to recognise, treat and manage them. They have also focussed strongly on communicating their findings through a variety of engaging formats. The legacy is an impressive and invaluable information resource.

Most of the resources created through the project are available via the AGORA website (note that this is password protected for members).

One of the key activities of the project team has been to maintain and update the AGORA website, making it the central library of mushroom pest, disease and hygiene information. Hundreds of resources are available, including both locally produced fact sheets and articles and publications from around the world. There are also videos demonstrating sampling methods, spot treatments and pest and disease identification.

The information on AGORA provides an invaluable industry asset for understanding and managing not just pest and diseases, but the important roles of compost quality, farm hygiene and other factors. Having such information available through AGORA has helped numerous farms manage their way through serious diseases.

Grower engagement

The team actively engaged with growers and took considerable effort to encourage uptake of the resources and expertise that was being made available. Despite COVID-19 disruptions, ten face-to-face workshops were delivered over five states, attracting attendees from nearly 50% of levy-paying farms. There were also numerous “phone a friend” online consultations. '

Workshop topics included mushroom pathology 101, dry bubble biology and management, vectors, spot treatment training, cobweb biology and management, and on farm sampling.

Four on-farm visits allowed the team to examine vulnerabilities of different farms to pests and diseases, as well as undertake some strategic sampling from sites identified during project MU12007 – development of a pilot mushroom farm disease monitoring scheme. These visits highlighted disease hotspots, and assisted farms to develop better management strategies.

Source: Mushroom Link magazine, published by Applied Horticultural Research, funded through the Hort Innovation Mushroom Levy.