Project Leader, Organisation

Dylan McFarlane, Victorian Strawberry Industry Certification Authority

Status

ACTIVE

Background

Charcoal rot and Fusarium wilt of strawberry crops have dramatically increased in importance since the withdrawal of the pre-plant fumigant methyl bromide, and are threatening the viability of the Australian industry. Methyl bromide was highly effective against these diseases, and growers did not have to rely on good biosecurity practices. Therefore, the industry needs effective biosecurity measures to reduce the spread of these soil-borne diseases.

In 2017 the Victorian Strawberry Industry Certification Authority (VSICA) conducted a survey across the Victorian strawberry industry (97 properties) to determine the distribution and severity of charcoal rot. The survey found that over 80% of growers’ properties contained soil that was infested with Macrophomina phaseolina, the fungus that causes charcoal rot. However, M. phaseolina was not evenly distributed across each growers’ property. Indeed, many properties had paddocks with no trace of M. phaseolina, while adjacent paddocks were heavily infested. The adoption of improved farm biosecurity by strawberry growers may, therefore, reduce the spread of charcoal rot.

This project will deliver Masterclasses to strawberry growers to increase their awareness and adoption of good biosecurity practices on their farms. This is expected to reduce the spread of soil-borne diseases between and within strawberry farms, while complementary research identifies better treatments for their management.

Objectives and impact

Objectives

  1. To increase Australian strawberry growers’ knowledge of the spread of soil-borne pathogens and the importance of farm biosecurity.
  2. To increase adoption of farm biosecurity practices on Australian strawberry farms.
  3. To assist with the professional development of Dylan McFarlane and capacity building of the industry to manage the soil-borne diseases.

Methods

  • Deliver farm biosecurity Masterclasses to growers at the Sunshine Coast (Qld), Yarra Valley (VIC) and Wanneroo district (WA). These will describe the transmission and lifecycle of the pathogens and highlight the benefits of farm biosecurity.
  • Integrate the stakeholder engagement strategies proposed by Cathy Robinson, who was involved in a previous PBCRC project ‘Collaborative planning and shared decision making amongst stakeholders in plant biosecurity risk management’, into the Masterclasses. This will involve the identification of growers’ biosecurity risks and their capacity to mitigate that risk.
  • Demonstrate the use of hygiene practices (e.g. footbaths, footwear covers) and describe the development of farm plans for improved biosecurity with growers.
  • Incorporate the key learnings from a previous PBCRC project ‘Perceptions and behaviours towards biosecurity risks across Vietnamese farming communities in Australia’ by Thi Tam Duong during the Masterclass at Wanneroo. This will involve the use of local translators (Vietnamese – English) who work in the industry.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the Masterclasses, and present a paper on the project at an international conference (International Methyl Bromide Alternatives Outreach Conference, San Diego, USA).

Outputs

  • Three Masterclasses for strawberry growers, including powerpoint presentations.
  • An evaluation report based on grower feedback and other methods.
  • A paper and presentation at an International Conference (see above).

Outcomes

  • Increased awareness by strawberry growers of soil-borne pathogens of strawberry and farm biosecurity.
  • Increased adoption of farm biosecurity practices by strawberry growers.
  • Reduced risk of spreading soil-borne diseases within and across strawberry farms in Australia, and associated improved control of diseases.
  • Enhanced biosecurity capacity of industry.
  • Professional development of Dylan McFarlane.