7 September 2012

TWO UQ scientists will lead a new project protecting Australia’s $120 million macadamia industry from a range of damaging plant diseases.

Drs Olufemi Akinsanmi and André Drenth, from the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI), specialise in the biology and management of plant diseases.

They have a strong track record in developing effective disease-management strategies that work for the macadamia industry, and they understand that disease management in macadamias is essential for long-term industry viability, productivity and profitability.

Supported by a Horticulture Australia Limited (HAL) grant of $750,000, the new macadamia protection program incorporated several key approaches, Dr Akinsanmi said.

“Over the years we have developed an integrated disease-management approach which cuts across several disciplines, and we work closely with other macadamia R&D scientists and extension officers, industry consultants and processors,” he said.

“QAAFI’s Centre for Plant Science at UQ provides an ideal home for the project as another QAAFI scientist, Dr Bruce Topp, is leading the macadamia breeding program.

“Alignment to the Centre for Plant Science at UQ also enables the involvement and training of post-graduate students in the development of novel disease-management strategies for the twenty-first century.

“A major focus of this project will be to work with growers and industry stakeholders to develop efficient and profitable management strategies for diseases affecting macadamia,” Dr Akinsanmi said.

Both Dr Drenth and Dr Akinsanmi have made significant contributions to the macadamia industry as they focus on developing practical and cost-effective disease-management strategies.

Adoption of these new technologies takes place through various industry extension platforms including articles in industry news bulletins, annual conferences, industry research forums and field walks with growers.

According to Dr Drenth, researchers are also involved in the novel Mac Smart platform, a web-based, industry driven, information portal.

“Innovation is only useful when the research outcomes are adopted by industry to control disease more effectively”, he said.

In addition to the main focus on two major diseases (Husk spot and Phytophthora tree decline), the project will provide improved understanding on the economic impacts of other emerging minor diseases of concern to the growing macadamia industry such as husk rot, die-back, flower blight, and other diseases specific to nursery conditions such as Alternaria leaf blight, Phomopsis die-back, and seedling blight.

The focus is on keeping plants healthy through all the life stages of the tree by paying attention and controlling disease issues while they are still minor.

The QAAFI researchers will provide ongoing pathology support to assist in the diagnosis of diseases and/or pathogens, including those that are of potential biosecurity significance to the macadamia industry.

This project has been funded by HAL using the Macadamia industry levy and matched funds from the Australian Government.

Dr Olufemi (Femi) Akinsanmi
Email: uqoakins@uq.edu.au
Tel: (07) 3255 4338

Associate Professor André Drenth
Email: a.drenth@uq.edu.au
Tel: (07) 3255 4391

QAAFI background
The Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) is a unique Australia research institute which was formed in 2010 as an alliance between The University of Queensland the Queensland Government. Today QAAFI is comprised of more than 100 research teams specialising in plant, animal and food sciences, working at twelve UQ and Queensland Government sites across the state. By focussing on high-impact science to maximise sustainable production across each of the three disciplines, QAAFI strives to improve the health and productivity of the tropical and sub-tropical food, fibre and agribusiness sectors.

Ron Hohenhaus r.hohen@uq.edu.au (07) 3346 0553
Mob: 0417 425 510