Project Leader, Organisation

Dylan McFarlane, Victorian Strawberry Industry Certification Authority




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.


  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.


This Foundation-funded project delivered several Masterclasses to strawberry growers around Australia to increase their awareness and adoption of farm biosecurity practices. Growers considered most of the farm biosecurity practices discussed as ‘easy’ to adopt, particularly those that were not costly or time consuming to implement.

75% of participants adopted one or more of the biosecurity practices on their farms within a month of the Masterclass. Many growers reported that they educated their staff about farm biosecurity.

Growers urgently need a manual to better educate their staff and visitors about farm biosecurity.

Overwhelmingly, growers think their biosecurity efforts are wasted due to the unwillingness of utility and labour providers to follow their protocols on strawberry farms, a situation common in other sectors.

As a result of this project, industry has funded work (approved for 2020) to determine the wider adoption of biosecurity practices and to survey crops for soil-borne diseases on every strawberry farm in Victoria.

Click here for the Final Report.

You can also download here an example of the Powerpoint slides used by Dylan in the Masterclasses.