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Jonathan Anderson, Louise Thatcher

Canola is a profitable break crop in the Western Australian cropping system and is critical to cereal rotations. Our canola pre-breeding research is targeted for improved disease resistance and agronomic traits.

The most common and serious disease of canola in Western Australia and nationally is Blackleg disease caused by the fungal pathogen Leptosphaeria maculans. Nationally it has a disease incidence of 98% and costs canola production $76.6M. After Blackleg, Sclerotinia stem rot (SSR, Sclerotinia sclerotiorum) has the greatest potential for disease severity in Australia, with annual predicted losses of at least $40M if not controlled. Since 2013/14 SSR has become a major industry concern in Australian oilseed and pulse production.

Our team is working towards the identification and delivery of novel sources of genetic resistance or tolerance. These are derived from diverse wild populations or mutant populations (TILLING) developed within CSIRO Canberra and Perth. We apply our understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying plant defence against microbial pathogens to improve crop resistance.

Thatcher, L.F., Myers, C.A., Pain, N. et al., A Sclerotinia disease assay for screening flowering canola plants in controlled environmentsAustralasian Plant Pathology, 2017. 46: 333.