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Sclerotinia Information Days

28 Sep 2017

In response to the rising concern of Sclerotinia diseases in grain fields, Grain SA alongside Bayer CropScience® answered farmers’ call and hosted information days on the disease. Three sessions in total were successfully hosted across the country with the first being hosted in Nigel (Monday 18 September), the second was in Paarl the following day and the last being held at NAMPO park on Friday 22 September. At each of the events a keynote address was given by Dr Bill Underwood, a plant pathologist from the United States Department of Agriculture - Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) whose research focuses Sclerotinia and its effects on Sunflower.

Sclerotinia has a wide host range of more than 400 plant species including soybeans, beans, canola, sunflower, lupines and various vegetable crops. The fungus causes head or stalk rot in these crops resulting in major yield losses where it has been established. Maize and other small grains however are not susceptible to the disease so they are good rotation candidates. Disease inoculum survives in the soil for a very long period and it is difficult to eradicate where it is established. Fungicide applications are not very effective in controlling the disease and are affected by the time of application as well as coverage. No major resistance genes against the disease have been found in hosts, only minor genes with quantitative resistance which only provide varying degrees of tolerance in hosts. A biological agent has been developed at Bayer by the name of Contans, which can be used against the disease (more info on Bayer website).

Farmers were given opportunities to raise their concerns to a panel of researchers including Dr Underwood. They also got to interact with members of the newly established South African Sclerotinia Research Network (SASRN) which is a collective of local researchers working on the disease. The SASRN has been formed to prioritise production research, improve collaboration amongst researchers and facilitate collaborative efforts with international researchers. The network will be approaching funding bodies and other stakeholders in an effort to increase research outputs that will ultimately aid farmers.

View the photo gallery below

Dr Bill Underwood addressing grain producers
 Speakers at the Nigel day
Producers attending the Nigel day
Speakers at the Paarl day
Producers at the Paarl day
Speakers at the NAMPO Park day Farmers at the NAMPO Park day