Environment Farmers have everything to grain

Farmers have everything to grain

Microscopic pests cost our grain industry $120 million per year but researchers from the University of Southern Queensland have their measure – and they won’t worm out of it this time.

Tiny critters known as root-lesion nematodes – microscopic worms, in other words – infest two-thirds of grain fields in Queensland’s northern growing region.

And they’re quite happy there too, devastating crops by munching their way through the roots of food meant for humans.

By studying their life-cycle, the USQ team has been able to give an accurate gauge of the nematode population, providing a vital tool for development of worm-resistant grain varieties.

Lead researcher Gavin Ash says the program has helped save farmers $41.5 million per year.

“Broadacre cropping is one of Queensland’s biggest industries, contributing around $2.5 billion to the national economy, but nematodes are significantly reducing that profitability,” Professor Ash says.

“Nematodes are extremely difficult to control because they can survive in soil for several years even after harvest, and you can’t use chemicals to eradicate them.

“By working with our researchers, growers are breeding better crops and more of them.”

USQ’s Centre for Crop Health has the second-biggest group of plant pathologists in Australia, boasting more than 30 full-time scientists.

“We have world-class researchers producing world-class outcomes and this work is just one example of why our research is ranked well above world standard,” says Professor Ash.

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