Weather may affect sorghum sterility

Queensland Government principal plant pathologist Stephen Neate assesses sterile sorghum heads.
Queensland Government principal plant pathologist Stephen Neate assesses sterile sorghum heads. Contributed

SORGHUM experts have warned farmers to be vigilant against sorghum sterility ahead of the coming season.

Department of Economic Development, Employment and Innovation (DEEDI) scientist Dale Kirby from Roma, one of Queensland's key sorghum growing areas, said farmers needed to be aware of the cause of last season's problem so they could plan for the coming season.

"In the last growing season around 10,000-15,000 hectares alone in the Roma area were affected by the sterility problem," Mr Kirby said.

"We believe it was caused by high temperatures in late February and early March, followed by several weeks of rain, both of which can affect sorghum pollen viability.

"We know it's highly unlikely to be related to head diseases in wheat experienced in 2010, as we were not able to get pathogens out of the sterile heads in affected crops.

"No pathogen can cause that type of widespread sterility within a field and within a region.

"However, we haven't been able to establish if certain varieties are more susceptible than others. We are currently engaged in research with scientists from Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation and CSIRO to better understand the impact of environment on seed development," he said.

"In the meantime, producers could consider growing more than one variety but choose those with different maturities, and consider spreading their planting dates to ensure flowering occurs at different times.

"In the unlikely event we get a repeat of extreme weather conditions like last year, both strategies minimise the risk all of the crop flowering at the same time."

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Topics:  rural weekly sorghum weather

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