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New research trials fungi to manage parasitic pests in crops

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New research being undertaken in Queensland could hold the key to controlling parasitic pests in a variety of fruit and vegetable crops.

Dr Jady Li is a Central Queensland University Future Farming Systems researcher, testing guards against nematode pests in crops, which damage the roots of garlic, carrot, potato and many other crops.

Dr Li was awarded a Young Innovator grant of $22,000 to put toward her research, and two months ago she began her trials to examine the efficiency of several different fungi to control nematodes.

Professor Philip Brown will oversee the research at the Bundaberg university campus, where the fungi is being tested in garlic crops.

The idea is that the fungi attack the nematodes — a type of worm — underneath the soil that cause the root damage.

He said the fungi could be a secret weapon to control the pest, particularly as chemical control options were limited.

"The scope for really effective management is limited, so having another option to throw into the mix is probably a really good idea in the longer term," Professor Brown said.

The trials are only funded for one year, but Professor Brown said the research would take much longer and was a very involved process.

"We will obviously be seeking further funding in the future if it looks like this strategy has some merit," he said.

"Nematodes are a really huge issue in vegetable cropping in subtropical and tropical production systems, so it will be a focus of our research for many years to come.

"Just within the Bundaberg region they certainly area major pest within sweet potato crops, they can also impact on capsicum and tomato crops.

"Different species will attack most of our important agricultural crops."

If the fungi was a successful management strategy, Professor Brown said the horticulture industry as whole would benefit.

"It is a strategy that will allow us to better manage the rotations that we use in our agricultural systems, so it just opens up more flexibility for growers," he said.

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