Canola and Blackleg Infection
Plant infections aren’t anything new to farmers and Blackleg (a fungal infection of canola) is no exception to that. It’s been seen before.
This year though, the news is slightly more worrying. Blackleg has arrived much earlier than usual and its appearance across Australia is much more widespread, including in parts of southern NSW.
Apparently, the infection is gaining ground over attempts to supress it. That because the fungus reproduces sexually and that gives it a genetic advantage because natural selection will favour varieties that are successful at overcoming canola’s natural resistance.
If that’s not bad news enough, to make things worse, it seems as if there’s a shortage now of the effective fungicides that can treat infected crops. Quite why that’s happened isn’t clear in the reporting to date but we can only hope that the big national providers are doing something to address the shortages.
Apparently, some experts are blaming the earlier than normal appearance of Blackleg and its wider distribution, partly on the unusually rainy and damp conditions earlier on coupled with the fact that many growers are now planting canola much earlier than usual. The theory goes that dampness is great for the spores and the fact that there’s more canola about and earlier, all might be creating a ‘Blackleg nursery’.
The good news is that the problem is still relatively modest in the overall scheme of things and total national production volumes look set to rise again. Of course, that’s no real consolation if you’re one of those producers who has been badly affected.
Whatever advances there are in things such as Kubota tractors, this sort of thing reminds us just how vulnerable we still are to the forces of nature and just what an unpredictable business farming can be.
Let’s hope that others outside of our industry take note too.
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