Fusarium graminearum and Fusarium pseudograminearum caused the 2010 head blight epidemics in Australia


E-mail: sukumar.chakraborty@csiro.au


Wheat crops in southeast Queensland (Qld) and northern New South Wales (NSW) were infected with fusarium head blight (FHB)-like symptoms during the 2010–11 wheat growing season. Wheat crops in this region were surveyed at soft dough or early maturity stage to determine the distribution, severity, aetiology and toxigenicity of FHB. FHB was widespread on bread wheat and durum, and Fusarium graminearum and/or F. pseudograminearum were diagnosed from 42 of the 44 sites using species-specific PCR primers directly on spikelets or from monoconidial cultures obtained from spikelets. Stem base browning due to crown rot (CR) was also evident in some samples from both states. The overall FHB and CR severity was higher for NSW than Qld. Deoxynivalenol (DON) concentration of immature grains was more than 1 mg kg−1 in samples from 11 Qld and 14 NSW sites, but only 13 of 498 mature grain samples sourced from the affected areas had more than 1 mg kg−1 DON. DON concentration in straw also exceeded 1 mg kg−1 in eight Qld and all but one NSW sites but this was not linked to DON concentration of immature grains. The proportion of spikelets with positive diagnosis for F. graminearum and/or F. pseudograminearum and weather-related factors influenced DON levels in immature grains. The average monthly rainfall for August–November during crop anthesis and maturation exceeded the long-term monthly average by 10–150%. Weather played a critical role in FHB epidemics for Qld sites but this was not apparent for the NSW sites, as weather was generally favourable at all sites.