Protecting plants from pests and diseases

We are helping protect plants from pests and diseases by investigating plant defences and the tactics pests and diseases use to overcome these defences.

The Challenge

Constant battle staying ahead of crop pests and diseases

While crops such as cereals, oilseeds and legumes provide exports worth more than A$6 billion to Australia, growers spend several hundred million dollars each year controlling pests and diseases.

Our Response

Developing a genetic arsenal and best management practices

Our scientists are developing and using the latest genetic techniques to gain a better understanding of disease function. They are also applying their expertise in molecular biology, plant physiology, agronomy and innovative gene technology to understand both sides of the plant-pathogen and plant-pest interaction.

Crop diseases we are currently investigating include:

  • Rust (stripe, leaf and stem)
  • Fusarium (crown rot)
  • Rhizoctonia
  • Powdery mildew
  • Barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV).

Crop pests we are currently investigating include:

  • Heliocoverpa, a major cotton pest
  • Aphids
  • Mirids
  • Pod-boring caterpillars and seed-eating weevils.

Approaching disease problems through local research and international collaborations is part of our commitment to future food security and agricultural sustainability for Australia.

Some of our achievements include reducing pesticide use by up to 75 per cent with the introduction of the genetically modified Bollgard II cotton which is insect resistant. We identified the 'avirulence' gene in rust which could lead to further developments in addressing this major cereal disease. We bred Mackellar, the world's first wheat variety which is resistant to Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus.

We haven't stopped there though, it is a constant battle to stay ahead of these pests and diseases so we continue in the fight and provide the Australian industry with the latest tools to combat these enemies.

Case study

  • Cereal rusts

    For several decades we’ve been contributing to the global fight against rust, a devastating fungal disease. It is estimated that globally 5.47 million tonnes of wheat are lost to the stripe rust pathogen each year, equivalent to US$979 million.


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