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Centre for Crop Health

The Centre for Crop Health delivers world-class research to ensure healthy crops for improved food security and on-farm profitability. 

It leads research focused on the sustainable management of diseases in summer and winter cropping systems in Australia. Researchers are nationally and internationally recognised for their expertise in the selection of resistant and tolerant germplasm, cutting-edge crop disease diagnostics, biosecurity research, biological control and genetics and genomics of both crops and their pathogens.


A key research focus of the Centre for Crop Health is management of soil-borne and foliar diseases of crops using genetic, genomic, phenotypic and pre-breeding approaches. The aim of our projects in this area is to reduce the economic impact that these diseases have in Australian farming systems and to broaden the scientific knowledge of the causal agents, including crop pathogenic fungi, bacteria, nematodes, and viruses and viroids

Title: National Variety Trials (Pathology) 2019 - 2024
Project Team: Dr Jason Sheedy | Dr Cassy Percy | Associate Professor Anke Martin
Project Partners: Agriculture Victoria | Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland |  Plant Breeding Companies
Funding Body: GRDC

The National Variety Trials (NVT) program is the largest independent co-ordinated trial network in the world. The program assists Australian grain growers in varietal decision making by providing comparative information of commercially available grain varieties, including: yield performance, disease resistance ratings, and grain quality.

Title: Introgression of improved root lesion resistance from wild Cicer into elite chickpea germplasm
Leader: Dr Rebecca Zwart
Project Partners: Curtin University | The Australian Grains Genebank | Agriculture Victoria | Plant Breeding Companies
Funding Body: GRDC
Australian chickpea breeding programs have identified the improvement of root lesion nematode genetic resistance as a priority. The project focuses on mapping the genetic location of genes contributing to resistance of two root lesion nematode species in cultivated chickpea and wild Cicer genotypes.
Title: Economic impact of root lesion nematodes in mungbean
Leader: Dr Jason Sheedy
Project Team: Neil Robinson 
Funding BodyGRDC

Root lesion nematodes are widespread throughout the grain growing areas of the Northern region where these pathogens have been found in up to 77% of tested paddocks. The aim of the project is to determine the resistance and tolerance status of the commercially available mungbean varieties and the economic impact of these pathogens in mungbean production.

Title: Improving powdery mildew management in mungbean
Leader: Professor Levente Kiss
Project Team: Dr Kirsty Owen | Neil Robinson
Funding BodyGRDC
Powdery mildew is a disease that impacts mungbean crops annually and if left unmanaged, and the environmental conditions are conducive to the disease, it can cause yield losses of up to 40%. With little genetic resistance in current varieties, management relies on the application of fungicides. A decision support tool (PowderyMildewMBM) is available to help guide fungicide application decisions and the likely economic returns from those actions. The project delivers a new set of validation trials and actively engages agronomists and growers with in-field disease management utilising the outputs of the decision support tool.
Title: Root Lesion Nematode resistance screening
Leader: Dr Jason Sheedy
Project Team: Neil Robinson 
Project Partners: University of Sydney
Funding Body: CAIGE – CIMMYT Australia ICARDA Germplasm Evaluation

Screening the field tolerance and greenhouse resistance reactions of nominated CAIGE Bread Wheat lines to the root lesion nematode Pratylenchus thornei. 

Title: Mechanisms on resistance towards DMIs in grape powdery mildew
Leader: Professor Levente Kiss
Project Team: Dr Sadegh Balotf
Project Partners: Curtin University 
Funding Body:  BASF

The aim of the project is to determine the sensitivity or resistance levels of grape powdery mildew populations to DMI fungicides in Australian vineyards.

Title: Australian Fungicide Resistance Extension Network (AFREN)
Leader: Curtin University | Australian Fungicide Resistance Extension Network
Funding Body: GRDC

AFREN has been established to develop and deliver fungicide resistance resources for grains growers and advisers across the country. It brings together regional plant pathologists, fungicide resistance experts and communications and extension specialists. A team at CCH, led by Prof Kiss, is a partner of AFREN.

An integral part of our research at the Centre for Crop Health is improving crop disease management through better understanding the genetics, genomics, biology, and infection cycle of crop pathogenic fungi, nematodes, and bacteria. At CCH, we use a range of traditional plant pathology techniques and state-of-the-art genomic tools to enhance knowledge of the biology of crop pathogens, which can be directly translated into reliable and durable disease management recommendations at a paddock level.

Title: My enemy’s enemy is my friend: The genetics of major plant pathogen killers
Leader: Professor Levente Kiss
Project Team: Dr Alexandros Georgios Sotiropoulos | Dr Sadegh Balotf
Project Partners: University of Zurich | The University of Melbourne
Funding Body: Australian Research Council

Fungal plant pathogens are often parasitized by other fungi in the field. The project will focus on these interactions between powdery mildews, important pathogens of many crops and wild plants, and their common fungal parasites, known as mycoparasites, that have already been utilised as biocontrol agents in crop protection. Genetic and genomic tools will be used to determine what makes these mycoparasites uniquely capable of suppressing powdery mildew colonies in the field. The project has the potential to establish new innovative methods to protect a wide diversity of crops from powdery mildews using mycoparasites or specific compounds derived from them.

Title: Novel biological and genetic disease control tools for the barley industry
Leader: Associate Professor Anke Martin
Project Team: Dr Buddhika Dahanayaka
Project Partners: Curtin University | The University of Melbourne | Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries | Plant Breeding Companies
Funding BodyAustralian Research Council

If left unmanaged, foliar diseases of barley can result in >35% annual grain yield loss in years suitable for disease development. The plant-microbe interactions involved are usually genetically complex, making breeding for resistance challenging. This ARC Linkage project will develop knowledge, tools and biological resources for the Australian barley industry that will expedite the production of disease resistant barley varieties against net form of net blotch.

Biological control methods as well as studies on integrated pest management practices are integral part of our research portfolio. Our current biological control projects are focused on suppressing crop pathogens with mycoparasites; insect pests with entomopathogenic fungi; and invasive weeds with specialised fungal plant pathogens. Integrated disease management practices are mainly studied in Australian summer crops.
Most of our projects focusing on crop diseases have supported plant biosecurity, especially through the precise identification of fungal and bacterial pathogens using classic and state-of-the-art molecular diagnostic methods. Many new and emerging plant pathogens have been identified, and sometimes formally described by our research staff and HDR students.