Fungal disease threat to chickpeas

An Ascochyta stem lesion on a chickpea plant.
An Ascochyta stem lesion on a chickpea plant.

CENTRAL Queensland’s winter chickpea cropping country remains a low-risk environment for outbreaks of the potentially devastating Ascochyta blight fungal disease but experts warn vigilance and astute management are vital.

Agronomists and plant pathologists from the Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation have teamed with Pulse Australia to hold two meetings in the Central Highlands to answer growers’ questions on what their management strategy should be for the 2011 season.

DEEDI industry development extension officers, Emerald’s Max Quinlivan and Biloela’s Darren Aisthorpe, were at the forefront of a long-running voluntary seed quarantine program for chickpeas to reduce the risks associated with directly bringing chickpea seed from the south into Central Queensland.

Growers and agronomists are invited to discuss AB disease management and identification in meetings to be held at the Gindie Tennis Club on June 15, from 8am to 9.30am and the Orion School Hall from 1pm to 2.30pm the same day.

Guest speakers will be DEEDI principal plant pathologist Dr Malcolm Ryley and Pulse Australia northern development officer Gordon Cumming.

Mr Aisthorpe and Mr Quinlivan warned that all current Central Queensland chickpea varieties were susceptible to AB so all planting seed had to be sourced from CQ-grown crops and treated with a registered seed dressing containing Thiram fungicide.

“Unfortunately, our once AB-free Central region was impacted by localised outbreaks first detected in August 2008 so now all crops must be inspected regularly – particularly 10 to 14 days after rain or overhead irrigation,” Mr Quinlivan said.

“A one-in-four year paddock rotation is strongly recommended with chickpea crops at greater risk of exposure when planted within 500m of where AB was detected in the 2010 season.

“There is a 2011 season AB risk where flood events have deposited chickpea crop residue into downstream paddocks.”

Mr Aisthorpe predicted a shortfall of quality chickpea planting seed this year following the unprecedented extreme wet harvest last year.

“In all high-risk situations, apply a preventative fungicide spray before the first predicted post-emergent rainfall event or three weeks following seedling emergence or at the three leaf stage – whichever occurs first,” Mr Aisthorpe said.

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