Plant health and biosecurity

The South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) Plant Health and Biosecurity Science Program provides disease management and biosecurity solutions for plant industries.

Our work is collaborative, with a research network that extends nationally and internationally.

We conduct targeted research into:

  • cereal
  • pulse
  • oilseed
  • horticulture
  • viticulture.

We offer these services:

We provide plant health solutions through scientific expertise in:

Dr Jenny Davidson leads this program, which has 4 subprograms:

  • Cereal Pathology
  • Horticulture and Viticulture Pathology
  • Pulse and Oilseed Pathology
  • Biosecurity.

Subprograms and research focus

Cereal Pathology

We provide information and management strategies for the control of diseases in South Australian cereal crops. We provide timely and relevant information about the incidence, biology and control of fungal diseases through:

  • our online newsletter Crop Watch
  • media reports
  • extension activities including:
    • sample diagnostics
    • industry enquiries
    • fact sheets
    • grower and consultant talks.

Our information and communication strategies are backed by research involving:

  • monitoring pathogen populations
  • screening varieties and breeding lines for resistance to more than 16 different pathogens
  • researching the biology and agronomic management of various diseases.

This subprogram’s research focus includes:

  • Improving durability andscald resistance in barley (Rhynchosporium commune). This includes:
    • Identifying new and diverse resistance sources, including both seedling and adult plant resistances
    • transfer into elite germplasm for breeding programs.
  • Monitoring rapidly evolving net form net blotch populations to keep abreast of virulence changes as they affect commercial varieties and elite breeding lines.
  • Developing crown rot resistance in durum germplasm. We aim to remove the disease as a significant impediment to durum production in Australia. In 2015, we will deliver:
    • improved resistance to crown rot in bread wheat  to wheat breeding programs.
  • Investigating options for the control of eyespot and white grain in wheat. This includes:
    • the possible use of fungicides and variety resistance
    • studying survival and dispersal of inoculum of the pathogens involved.

Subprogram contact

Dr Tara Garrard
Phone: (08) 8429 2247

Horticulture and Viticulture Pathology

We provide horticultural and viticultural crop disease management solutions.

Our expertise includes:

  • applied research
  • plant disease diagnostics
  • National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) certified virus testing for potato seed certification
  • fungicide evaluation and fungicide resistance.

Our services include:

  • Management solutions for soil-borne potato diseases. Our DNA tests for the major soil-borne pathogens of potatoes providing growers with a pre-planting management tool to:
    • reduce disease impact
    • improve productivity.
  • Management solutions for soil-borne onion diseases. Our research includes developing:
    • management options for stunt and other soil-borne diseases
    • predictive testing of pre-plant soil samples
    • best practice manuals to assist growers reduce the impact of soil-borne diseases.
  • Grapevine trunk disease management of eutypa and botryosphaeria dieback. This includes:
    • developing preventative strategies with fungicides and biocontrol treatments for pruning wound protection and remedial control of affected vineyards
    • determining spore dispersal patterns, wound susceptibility, critical time for applying wound protectants, disease resistance and effects of water stress.
  • Improved fungicide resistance management by investigating fungicide resistance:
    • in powdery mildew, downy mildew and botrytis bunch rot
    • incidence and severity to key fungicides used to manage the three main foliar diseases in viticulture
    • to provide improved resistance management options.

Subprogram contacts

Dr Mark Sosnowski
Phone: (08) 8429 2281

Pulse and Oilseed Pathology

This subprogram conducts the following research:

  • Investigating spore dispersal patterns of key pulse and canola crop pathogens by using spore traps and qPCR assays.
  • Resistance screening in collaboration with Pulse Breeding Australia national pulse breeding programs. Screening includes:
    • ascochyta blight
    • chocolate spot
    • cercospora leaf spot of faba beans
    • downy mildew and powdery mildew of field peas.
  • Monitoring pathotype changes of fungal species, particularly Ascochyta fabae, A. lentis and A. rabiei, and relaying information to growers, advisors and breeding programs. This helps with breeding selections, improved crop type and variety selection to manage disease in the cropping season.
  • Investigating the increased incidence and severity of field mould and other grain quality issues of faba bean grain. We aim to determine the factors that may influence seed staining such as:
    • plant genotype and interactions with crop management practices
    • crop topping and windrowing.
  • Developing and validating better tools for pest and disease surveillance in the grains industry. This includes using smart spore and insect traps, aerial and ground based mobile spore traps, and hyperspectral imaging to detect pests and diseases.
  • Investigating reporting technologies for alarms, warning and reporting such as:
    • wireless sensor networks
    • remote telemetry
    • digital image transmission
    • web-based technologies
    • smart phones.

We offer disease management strategies for plant diseases that impact on South Australian pulse and canola crops. These include:

  • management advice packages from active field surveillance for fungal, bacterial and viral diseases of pulse and canola crops
  • an extension program for disease management consisting of timely electronic reports (Crop Watch), which includes rapid response to significant outbreaks of new and emerging diseases , in coordination with cereal pathology.

Subprogram contact

Dr Jenny Davidson
Phone: (08) 8429 2228


This subprogram specialises in biosecurity research with key strengths in:

  • diagnostics
  • surveillance
  • impact management.

Our team:

  • develops incursion management strategies for exotic grapevine diseases black rot and angular leaf scorch
  • offers provision of export clearances for all plant industries
  • operates a post-entry plant quarantine facility
  • coordinates quarantine compliance on Waite Campus.

Our international research program in collaboration with Cornell University, USA, aims to:

  • develop diagnostic protocols and incursion response strategies
  • minimise the economic impact of eradication.

Subprogram contact

Dr Pauline Glocke
Phone: (08) 8429 2289

Program leader

Dr Jenny Davidson
Science Leader, Plant Health and Biosecurity
SARDI Sustainable Systems
GPO Box 397 Adelaide SA 5001
Phone: (08) 8429 2228

Page Last Reviewed: 06 Feb 2015
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