Published: 13 Feb 2020
New research indicates a potential win-win situation for Tasmanian pyrethrum growers, who could be able to increase yields while also reducing their input costs for disease control.
Researcher at the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA), Dr Jason Scott, has been working with Tasmanian pyrethrum growers and field agronomists from Botanical Resources Australia (BRA) to improve disease management for the industry – and the early results are promising.
“Final results will be released when the project is completed later this year, but the results collected over the last couple of seasons are showing promising signs that we can help growers to reduce their fungicide usage without compromising yields,” Dr Scott said.
With Tasmania’s pyrethrum crop predicted to expand by 25 per cent this year due to increased consumer demand (Tasmanian Country, 13 January 2020), this research is being well-received by industry.
“Managing fungal diseases, especially in spring, is a big part of making sure the growers and the industry get good returns for their investments. Making sure disease control is effective is essential to help attract new growers into the industry and help it meet its expansion targets,” Dr Scott said.
“We think we can help industry to be more efficient and effective in their use of disease protocols and potentially reduce their usage of chemicals. Part of the project is to evaluate what current disease protocols are being use by industry and how they can be modified, made more strategic, or potentially removed.”
“A lot of the disease controls currently available to industry are chemical based, and it looks like we’ll be able to be smarter about when about when these are applied making them more effective, but also reducing the amount overall that has to be applied without a loss of yield or efficiency.”
Over the past three years, Dr Scott and his team have been conducting field trials on commercial pyrethrum farms in Tasmania. They have also conducted surveys of around 30 commercial crops each year. This involved taking leaf samples during spring and flower samples during summer to identify what diseases are present at different times during the season.
“We are looking at what fungi are present at different times during the season and whether there is a correlation between leaf and flower diseases,” Dr Scott said.
“Some early indications from the research are showing us that the flower diseases that the industry has been controlling for are a lot less prevalent now, especially in dry years. If this continues to play out, this is good news as it means there’s a real opportunity to reduce spray costs here.”
Conducting trials on commercial crops means that the research is very collaborative and industry get to see results quickly.
“Part of the benefit of working on commercial farms and working with the staff at BRA is that they’re able to take the information and use it to make on-farm changes very quickly,” Dr Scott said.
“The industry has made changes to their disease management protocols already as a result of the project, including more efficient chemical use and using different treatments in second and third year crops to better manage the chemical effectiveness.”
The project is titled ‘Integrated disease management in pyrethrum’ and was funded by Hort Innovation using industry levies and funds from the Australian Government, along with in-kind support from TIA and BRA.
TIA is a joint venture between the University of Tasmania and the Tasmanian Government.