Can grain growers and agronomists identify common leaf diseases and biosecurity threats in grain crops? An Australian example

Dominie Wright, Bill Macleod, N. Hammond, N. Longnecker

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2 Citations (Scopus)


© 2016The Australian grains industry relies upon growers and agronomists to be aware of pests and diseases in their crops and to notify their local State Department of Agriculture when they suspect an incursion of a high priority pest (HPP). This raises the question “Are growers and agronomists, within the Australian grains industry, able to meet this expectation?” A training needs analysis was undertaken to determine the capacity of growers and agronomists to identify three endemic diseases (powdery mildew in barley, stripe rust in wheat and blackleg in canola) in their crops. Their knowledge of the top four-biosecurity threats to the Australian grains industry (Karnal bunt, Khapra beetle, barley stripe rust and Russian wheat aphid) was also determined. Benchmarks for successfully identifying these diseases were set beforehand at 70% of growers and 80% of agronomists; participants’ ability to identify these endemic diseases in crops met these benchmarks. However, their ability to recognise blackleg in canola was significantly lower than for the two cereal foliar diseases. There was a significant correlation of region with these capabilities, with a greater proportion of participants in Western Australia (WA) recognising powdery mildew in barley than in Eastern Australia (EA). In contrast, a greater proportion of participants in EA were able to identify stripe rust of wheat than in WA. The education levels of participants corresponded with their ability to identify blackleg in canola. Participants’ knowledge and awareness of symptoms and signs associated with the top four biosecurity threats were well below expectations; fewer than half of the participants answered questions on these four HPPs. Gender, age and educational level did not correlate with the participants’ knowledge and awareness of the four HPPs with the exception of Karnal bunt. Participants with a higher level of education had significantly more knowledge of symptoms associated with Karnal bunt than did participants with lower levels of education. The use of diagnostic services by the grains industry participants is a vital component of general surveillance. This survey showed that use of these services by growers was significantly lower than by agronomists. Awareness of the National Exotic Plant Pest Hotline and GrainGuard was significantly lower than other diagnostic services for both growers and agronomists. Diagnostic services need to be promoted further to increase awareness and use by growers and agronomists. Correct diagnosis of disease and pest symptoms is vital for the biosecurity of the grains industry.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-88
JournalCrop Protection
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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