Links between soilborne pathogens, plant parasitic nematodes, farm management and biophysical constraints in a southern Australian rainfed cropping system

Document Type


Publication Date


Journal Title

Crop and Pasture Science


Print: 1836-0947 Electronic: 1836-5795


agronomy; crop pathogens; crop rotation; crown rot; rainfed; rhizoctonia bare patch; root lesion nematode; take all.


Agricultural Science | Agronomy and Crop Sciences


Context: Rotations in rainfed farming systems of southwest Australia have shifted towards intensified cropping and it is necessary to reassess soilborne pathogens and plant parasitic nematodes within this context. Aims: We tested the hypothesis that these recent changes in rotations and agronomy have altered the efficacy with which rotations reduce the incidence of common root pathogens and plant parasitic nematodes. Methods: We tracked changes in common pathogen DNA in soil and the incidence and severity of crop root damage in 184 paddocks, over 6 years from 2010 to 2015, and related this to farmer practices. Key results: Overall, severe root damage was rare, with 72% of plant samples showing no damage or only a trace and only 1% severely damaged. We found that the reduction of paddocks in pasture and resultant very low weed populations, combined with early sowing, reduced persistence of pathogens and nematode pests. But some aspects of crop management had the opposite effect: high rates of herbicide, increased frequency of cereals and canola at the expense of lupin and increased N fertiliser use. Conclusions: Current agronomic practices and the frequency of non-host crops in rotations appear to be effective in controlling common root pathogens and plant parasitic nematodes. But the aspects of agronomic management that increased populations of pathogens should be applied cautiously. Implications: Studies such as this that link multiple productivity constraints, such as pathogens and nematode pests, weeds and nutrients, to management practices are important to understand the sustainability of current or proposed production methods.