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Published: 21 Nov 2022

A smiling female student wearing a white lab coat in a glasshouse with plants in front of and around her.

Pooja Rajasri Poosarla, based at TIA in the University of Tasmania's Cradle Coast campus, is researching ways to better understand the occurrence and presence of fungicide resistance in populations of two pyrethrum pathogens.

Name: Pooja Rajasri Poosarla

PhD Title: Mechanisms of Fungicide Resistance in Pyrethrum Pathogens

What is your PhD project?

Pyrethrum is a perennial herbaceous plant grown for the extraction of insecticidal pyrethrins. Botanical Resources Australia, headquartered in Ulverstone, produces and supplies for over 70% of global pyrethrin markets with crops in north-west Tasmania and Ballarat in Victoria.

There are a number of diseases occurring in Tasmanian crops which require fungicide application to control their impact on yield. The most important fungal diseases are tan spot caused by Didymella tanaceti and Ray blight caused by Stagonosporopsis tanaceti. However, the use of chemical fungicides for management presents an issue of development of fungicide resistance. As a result, adequate disease control from the chemicals is reduced.

My project aims to better understand the occurrence and presence of fungicide resistance in populations of two pyrethrum pathogens. The pathogens will be tested against commonly used fungicides to assess their sensitivity and genetic material to identify the molecular cause of reduced sensitivity. My project also aims to develop a novel protocol for the industry to carry out fungicide testing in the laboratory to assess fungicidal sensitivity before using the same fungicides on commercial scale.

How would you like to see your research used?

I would like my research to an impact on decision-making strategies by the pyrethrum industry. The results aim to give the industry information as to how they should or should not carry out their management practices and how alterations might result in better yield and low fungicide resistance in pathogens.

The novel fungicide testing protocol, upon usage can result in cost and time savings in monitoring current fungicides and evaluating potential alternatives.

What do you enjoy about studying/researching at TIA?

The people. I was pursuing my master’s degree at TIA, Sandy Bay campus. The staff, my professors and fellow PhD students that I met there have always been genuine and supportive throughout my degree. I love how my relationships with them were and felt TIA to be a healthy and safe work/ study environment.

Now that I am in Burnie, I can say that I feel the same. The people here are amazing, welcoming, and extremely supportive.

Can you share a “best moment” in your research so far?

My best moment was when my supervisors and colleagues here stepped up for me and carried out my lab work while I was away for a month visiting my family. I am very much grateful for them.

A word of advice or favourite quote?

Favourite quote, 2.

Arise, awake, and stop not till the goal is reached – Swami Vivekananda

Don’t dream your life, live your dreams – Mark Twain