Thirty key scientists from around the world are gathering at an international workshop to focus on the devastating Russian Wheat Aphid, an invader of all major wheat-growing areas in the world except Australia.
The Singapore gathering, from April 26 – 28, will examine the current work and research that will safeguard Australia’s crops from invasive pests.
The workshop will be led by Murdoch University’s Associate Professor Mehmet Cakir, head of the WA State Agricultural Biotechnology Centre based study, and Professor John Lovett, Chairman of the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for National Plant Biosecurity.
Dr Cakir said the aphid is currently kept out of Australia by rigid quarantine efforts.
“This significant insect pest of wheat and barley already affects cereal growing areas of the USA, South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia and parts of South America, Europe and Asia,” he said.
“In fact it’s now present in all major wheat and barley growing areas of the world except Australia.”
The Singapore workshop is being sponsored by the CRC for National Plant Biosecurity and Grains Research Development Corporation, who have also supported Dr Cakir’s Australian-based research.
Dr Cakir’s team has been researching cereal strains resistant to the devastating Russian Wheat Aphid in conjunction with CSIRO and in collaboration with researchers from the US, France, Turkey, Syria, Iran, South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia and Argentina.
The study has been funded with $3.57 million towards finding wheat and barley strains resistant to this destructive aphid, including $1.57 million from the Grains Research and Development Corporation and $2 million from project collaborators.
“Developing molecular tools for breeders and new resistant cultivars for the Australian farmers are also main objectives of the project,” Dr Cakir said.
“This research project aims to prevent this aphid from threatening Australia’s grains industry, which would potentially cause wheat crop yield losses of up to 70 per cent and even higher losses in barley.”
Murdoch’s research team are collaborating with researchers from Australia and around the world to trial the resistant strains and new potential cultivars for Australian growers.