Unearthing information on microscopic pest

image of RLN
Root lesion nematodes are microscopic, worm-like parasites that inhabit the soil and feed on plant roots. Photo by GRDC.

Increasing grain growers’ understanding about the impact that root lesion nematodes (RLN) have in their farming systems, and how they can effectively deal with them, is the aim of a new Western Australian project.

The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) invested in the work after members of its WA Regional Cropping Solutions Network (RCSN) initiative identified RLN as an issue of significant concern for growers, especially in the Albany port zone and western areas of the Kwinana port zone.

GRDC grower relations manager – west, Curtis Liebeck, said the microscopic pests could significantly reduce crop yields by feeding on root tissues, reducing water and nutrient uptake and compromising plant growth.

“Nematodes survive over summer in a dehydrated form and continue their life cycle when the soil conditions become favourable.

“Once established, they can be managed but not eradicated. If they are not managed, populations can increase and may limit crop production.”

The project, to be led by farm consultancy Farmanco, will complement significant existing research in WA, conducted largely by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD), as part of the National Nematology Project.

DPIRD has conducted research into RLN distribution, host range among crop species, variety resistance within crop species, interaction with acid soils and yield impacts on crops.

Mr Liebeck said the new project aimed to add to the industry’s understanding of nematode levels in the grainbelt by conducting surveys over two years to enhance information about RLN distribution in the Albany port zone and western areas of the Kwinana port zone.

“This project will also aim to determine whether targeted sampling points are more effective than random sampling across a paddock, and provide approaches for growers to manage RLN on their properties,” he said.

“A broad-scale trial, which aims to establish the impact of different rotations and management strategies on RLN numbers, will be established in each port zone and workshops will be conducted to inform growers of project findings.”

The GRDC has recently produced a video and podcast about RLN in WA, featuring DPIRD nematologist, Sarah Collins. To view the video, go to https://bit.ly/2PSvhXH. To listen to the new GRDC podcasts, direct links to iTunes or Soundcloud are available from https://grdc.com.au/podcasts, or use this URL to listen from your desktop.

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