White grain threat again

Hugh Wallwork.RECENT wet and humid conditions across parts of the grain belt mean white grain could be a quality issue for the second consecutive year.

Researchers believe the season could be conducive to the Botryosphaeria fungal disease infecting grain heads and causing white grain formation.

Growers in areas where white grain was an issue last year – particularly central and northern NSW, the Upper North and eastern Eyre Peninsula in SA and parts of Victoria – are therefore advised to keep an eye out for white head formation in their wheat and barley crops and, where detected, determine whether the symptoms have been caused by Botryosphaeria, crown rot or some other factor.

Hugh Wallwork, senior plant pathologist at SARDI, says white grain emerged as a new problem in the southern cropping region last season when loads of grain were downgraded or rejected.

Dr Wallwork says little is known about the Botryosphaeria fungus that survives in stubbles and can cause leaf death and white heads under some environmental conditions. “It is expected that the disease will only cause problems under humid spring conditions but research funded by the GRDC in SA and Queensland will help to identify the conditions required for damage more precisely,” said Dr Wallwork.

White grain caused by the Botryosphaeria fungus contains no toxins, retains much of its nutritional value and can be safely fed to livestock.

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