New research indicates a potential win-win situation for Tasmanian pyrethrum growers, who could be able to increase yields while also reducing their input costs for disease control.
Researcher at the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture, Dr Jason Scott, has been working with Tasmanian pyrethrum growers and field agronomists from Botanical Resources Australia to improve disease management for the industry. "Final results will be released when the project is completed later this year, but the results collected over the last couple of seasons are showing promising signs that we can help growers to reduce their fungicide usage without compromising yields," Dr Scott said.
With Tasmania's pyrethrum crop predicted to expand by 25 per cent this year due to increased consumer demand, this research is being well-received by industry.
"Managing fungal diseases, especially in spring, is a big part of making sure the growers and the industry get good returns for their investments. Making sure disease control is effective is essential to help attract new growers into the industry and help it meet its expansion targets," Dr Scott said.
"We think we can help industry to be more efficient and effective in their use of disease protocols and potentially reduce their usage of chemicals. Part of the project is to evaluate what current disease protocols are being use by industry and how they can be modified, made more strategic, or potentially removed."
Dr Scott said existing disease control is chemical based and what the industry needed was smarter and more efficient controls that would not affect yield.
Over the past three years, Dr Scott and his team have been conducting field trials on commercial pyrethrum farms in Tasmania. They have also conducted surveys of around 30 commercial crops each year.
"We are looking at what fungi are present at different times during the season and whether there is a correlation between leaf and flower diseases," Dr Scott said.
"Some early indications from the research are showing us that the flower diseases that the industry has been controlling for are a lot less prevalent now, especially in dry years. If this continues to play out, this is good news as it means there's a real opportunity to reduce spray costs here.
"The industry has made changes to their disease management protocols already as a result of the project, including more efficient chemical use and using different treatments in second and third year crops to better manage the chemical effectiveness." TIA is a joint venture between the University of Tasmania and the Tasmanian Government.