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Hinkler AgTech Initiative investigates management of downy mildew in basil crops

Published:09 December 2022

CQUniversity Research Officer Alison Jensen (far right) with representatives from BioScout on a property at Wallaville, near Bundaberg.

A CQUniversity-led research project into the impact of downy mildew on basil crops in the Bundaberg and Biloela regions has the potential to prevent yield losses that cost the industry millions each year.

In partnership with the Botanical Food Company, the project is coordinated by Research Officer Dr Alison Jensen, as part of the Hinkler AgTech Initiative.

“We’re currently working with the Botanical Food Company (BFC) and herb growers to develop improved strategies for management of downy mildew, which can cause potentially devastating yield loss in basil crops,” Dr Jensen said.

“As part of this project, growers are trialling a crop disease monitoring platform called BioScout, which provides automated, real-time data capture on the concentration of airborne spores and environmental conditions.

“We also monitor when and where downy mildew outbreaks occur. This data can be used to develop a predictive model (based on the historical conditions that lead to disease outbreaks) to estimate the likelihood of a disease outbreak in future.

“Growers involved in this project are already enthusiastic to see the data being collected, so that in future they can make more informed decisions for crop management.”

The basil downy mildew trials have been completed in the Bundaberg area but are still being conducted in the Biloela region.

Alison has a long association with CQU, having completed her Bachelor of Science (Biology) with the University as an undergraduate.

After working in the sugarcane industry for several years and completing a Master of Plant Protection at the University of Queensland, Alison was introduced to CQU’s Professor Philip Brown and she went on to study a PhD as a three-year industry funded project, investigating pachymetra root rot management and sugarcane cultivar resistance.

During the final year of her undergraduate study, sugarcane smut was discovered for the first time near Bundaberg. Sugarcane smut is one of the most serious diseases of sugarcane. Affected cane is severely stunted and production losses of 30-100 per cent are common in susceptible varieties.

Alison was involved in some of the early research work to develop strategies for sugarcane smut management, which was the beginning of her interest in plant pathology.

The Hinkler AgTech Initiative helps growers to trial agricultural technologies (AgTech) in commercial farming systems and support industry adoption of AgTech products or services in the Bundaberg region.

“AgTech has potential application to improve the accuracy of disease forecasts, so that growers can make informed decisions about when/where to apply control measures such as fungicide sprays.”

The Hinkler AgTech Initiative is funded through the Hinkler Regional Deal. The Hinkler Regional Deal is a collaboration between the Australian Government, Bundaberg Regional Council and Fraser Coast Regional Council.