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Barley Stripe Rust Scare in Australia

04 November 2011

AUSTRALIA - New South Wales Department of Primary Industries (DPI) has promptly responded to a suspected outbreak of exotic stripe rust in barley in southern NSW.

The site has been inspected by DPI research scientist Andrew Milgate, who reported that the symptoms exhibited suggested it was unlikely to be the exotic barley stripe rust Puccinia striiformis f. sp. hordei.

NSW grains biosecurity officer, Louise Rossiter, said Dr Milgate collected and despatched samples to the Cereal Rust Laboratory at the University of Sydney, Plant Breeding Institute.

"The samples were subjected to molecular diagnostic tests which confirmed that the pathogen was not barley stripe rust," Dr Rossiter said.

"NSW DPI principal research scientist, Colin Wellings, has identified the pathogen as barley grass stripe rust (P. striiformis f.sp. pseudo-hordei) which has been endemic in NSW since the late 1990s.

"This pathogen is capable of causing minor symptom development in certain barley varieties."

Dr Rossiter said barley stripe rust remains an exotic threat to Australian barley growers.

"The different forms of stripe rusts that may occur on barley are not visibly distinguishable," she said.

"Tests overseas indicate a majority of our commercial varieties are susceptible, and grain yield losses could approach 80 per cent.

"With this in mind, the industry needs to remain alert to the potential arrival of barley stripe rust.

"Early detection and prompt reporting are the keys to limiting spread and increasing the chance of successful containment and eradication in the case of a barley stripe rust incursion.

"All stripe rust found in barley should be reported for investigation by DPI experts."

The trial operator who reported the rust was part of a network of people across NSW involved in active surveillance for a number of exotic grain pests and pathogens.

"This surveillance is part of the Grains Farm Biosecurity Program supported by Grain Producers Australia and Plant Health Australia and provides information and training on field detection of specific exotic grains pests and diseases, to increase early detection," Dr Rossiter said.

"While there are people actively ‘keeping an eye out', it is important that everyone involved in grain production reports the occurrence of unusual pests, diseases or crop symptoms.

"Anything out of the ordinary should be reported to the local DPI district agronomist or by calling the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881."

Plant Health Australia has developed a Farm Biosecurity Manual for the Grains Industry to highlight key exotic threats to the grains industry and important information for growers about easy yet effective biosecurity practices to help protect against unwanted pests and diseases.

For a copy of the manual or more information on barley stripe rust or farm biosecurity, contact Louise Rossiter on (02) 63 913188 or louise.rossiter@industry.nsw.gov.au.

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