Disease is one of the biggest challenges faced within the cotton industry and recent surveys show that it is a main concern for growers. To investigate techniques to manage disease, growers, consultants, and industry personnel are working together to form farmer-focused participatory action research groups – ‘Disease Action Groups’. It’s a collaboration between people that are directly affected, allowing them to be part of the research process and use their own findings to create a solution.
This research is supported by CSD’s Richard Williams Initiative, Cotton Research and Development Corporation (CRDC), and Crown Analytical Services. Research has started in central and southern cotton growing regions as these commonly face the most disease issues, however there is intent to expand to all regions.
The Disease Action Groups works with their local CottonInfo Regional Extension Officers (REO) to find practices that can assist with on-farm disease management by designing, participating, and driving research. The initial goal of the research is to reduce the impact of disease on cotton production and help growers find better practices to manage it.
Trangie cotton grower, Stewart Denston, is a member of the Macquarie Disease Action Group. He is enthusiastic about the benefits and value that this type of research will provide to his business.
“We will benefit from this more targeted approach to disease management within a known disease field. There will be much more accurate and repeatable disease monitoring to gauge over time whether our management practices are influencing disease levels within a field,” said Mr. Denston.
Three of the main diseases that have been reoccurring across the cotton industry are Black Root Rot, Fusarium Wilt, and Verticillium Wilt. The initiatives key to success has been through monitoring disease inoculum levels seen within heat maps from Crown Analytical Services. The heat maps have made it clear that back-to-back cotton significantly increases Verticillium Wilt inoculum levels.
This initiative will help growers better manage disease, find alternative process and practices such as crop rotation, and provide regionally specific research and information to advise and assist growers, agronomists, and consultants. More than 50 growers are participating and working together to investigate a range of crops that can be rotated with cotton such as wheat, millet, canola, sunflowers, and corn.
Matthew Norrie, a member of the Namoi Disease Action Group, is excited about what this research means for the future of cotton management in Australia.
Mr Norrie adds, “I hope that through this initiative we can establish some guidelines on how to not only reduce the incidence of Vert in the crop in the first place, but also, how to manage the disease in the soil for the long term and keep these soils producing high yielding healthy cotton crops”.
With the first of three seasons committed to for this project completed, the groups are now preparing for the second season. Field days, workshops and local meetings will be held across the industry to keep the conversation of disease at the forefront and to promote better disease management.