UWA researchers discover the cause of devastating crop disease

When the disease arrived in Ethiopia in 2012, surveys of a region showed that 50 to 100 per cent of crops quickly become infected, followed by losses up to 100 per cent.

Faba bean is of critical importance for food security in Ethiopia, and faba bean gall disease is especially devastating for this East African community.

It is also known to attack field peas and clover growing nearby, and poses a serious international biosecurity risk for its potential to be accidentally introduced into other countries, including Australia.

Australia is the world’s leading exporter of faba bean, producing up to 500 thousand tonnes annually and supplying one-third of faba bean traded internationally.

The grain legume is mainly grown in the cropping systems of South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia.

In world-first findings published in the international journal Plant Pathology, Professor Martin Barbetti and Research Fellow Dr Mingpei You from the UWA School of Agriculture and Environment and The UWA Institute of Agriculture have definitively proven that the pathogen Physoderma viciae is the cause of faba bean gall disease.

When the disease arrived in Ethiopia in 2012, surveys of a region showed that 50 to 100 per cent of crops quickly become infected, followed by losses up to 100 per cent.

Faba bean is of critical importance for food security in Ethiopia, and faba bean gall disease is especially devastating for this East African community.

It is also known to attack field peas and clover growing nearby, and poses a serious international biosecurity risk for its potential to be accidentally introduced into other countries, including Australia.

Australia is the world’s leading exporter of faba bean, producing up to 500 thousand tonnes annually and supplying one-third of faba bean traded internationally.

The grain legume is mainly grown in the cropping systems of South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia.

In world-first findings published in the international journal Plant Pathology, Professor Martin Barbetti and Research Fellow Dr Mingpei You from the UWA School of Agriculture and Environment and The UWA Institute of Agriculture have definitively proven that the pathogen Physoderma viciae is the cause of faba bean gall disease.

Professor Barbetti said management strategies could now be aligned with the nature and behaviour of the pathogen.

“Olpidium, a genus generally restricted to underground parts of the plant, does not show above-ground symptoms and is not spread by rain splash, while Physoderma is an above-ground pathogen primarily spread by rain splash,” he said.

“Armed with the knowledge that the disease is caused by a pathogen that spreads by rain splash, we can now predict when the zoospores will be released and best highlight timings for chemical spray applications to reduce reinfection cycles.”

The research was supported by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and collaborating institutions; the Ethiopian Institute for Agricultural Research in Ethiopia, Debre Birhan Agricultural Research Centre in Ethiopia, the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) in Morocco, and the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries at Tamworth.

Media references
Professor Martin Barbetti (UWA School of Agriculture and Environment & The UWA Institute of Agriculture) 

Rosanna Candler (Communications Officer, The UWA Institute of Agriculture) 

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