Peanut disease hidden in soil could ‘wipe out crops’
A GRADUATE agronomist’s research has grown a greater awareness of a disease impacting South Burnett peanut crops.
Kingaroy graduate agronomist Claire-Marie Pepper said the fungal disease could have devastating effects.
“It can basically wipe out whole peanut crops, when it’s bad,” she said.
Sclerotinia blight is a serious soil-borne disease of peanut crops which is present in the South Burnett area.
The Nutrien Ag Solutions graduate agronomist, formally known as Northern Agri Services, recently presented her findings at the Tropical Agriculture International Conference from November 11 to 13.
“It’s something that’s never been investigated before,” she said.
The disease can infect the root, stem and foliage tissues of the peanut.
It attacks the nuts under the ground and forms fluffy white growths on the stems.
Miss Pepper’s research on Sclerotinia blight revealed South Burnett soils had at least two strains of the disease.
“Different strains have different ways they are activated in the soil,” she said.
High humidity and moisture often increase the chances of the disease being activated.
“During the dry season you’re unlikely to see it, but it’s still present in the soil, it’s just not activated,” she said.
Last year was quite a wet year for growers, which Miss Pepper said was interesting to compare with this year’s drier season.
Part of her research focused on understanding the disease and how to manage it.
“It’s another tool to help growers make better planting decisions,” Miss Pepper said.
Growers can conduct pre-season soil tests to determine the likelihood of the disease being present.
If it is present they can decide to rotate the crops, which dilutes the intensity of the disease.
Growers can also undertake soil treatments and then try peanuts again the following season.
“We need to continue to do soil tests,” Miss Pepper said.
“The information gathered is quite useful to growers, but we need to look at the disease further.
Miss Pepper worked with the South Australia Research and Development Institute to test the Sclerotinia inoculum levels in the South Burnett soils.
They gathered soil, paddock and weather data to identify the key characteristics linked to a high risk of Sclerotinia blight.
Miss Pepper said she enjoyed the opportunity to do some research.
“This one was an information gatherer, but it was quite beneficial to the agricultural community,” she said.