Episode 9

Published on:

10th Jun 2021

Coordinated Research Efforts to Fight Pulse Pathogens with Dr. Jenny Davidson

In this episode we meet Dr. Jenny Davidson, a pulse pathologist at South Australian Research Institute, or SARDI, in Adelaide, South Australia. Dr. Davidson works on diseases of lentils, chickpeas, field peas, and fava beans. She leads a team of a number of scientists and technicians working to keep pulse diseases under control in Australia. In 25 years of doing this work with pulse crops, she has seen diseases and genetic resistance to those diseases come and go. She shares about efforts to combat these pulse diseases, especially ascochyta, and the unified effort in Australia to find effective ways to manage them. 

“We started out and still do really have a big focus on ascochyta because each of these crops have their own version of ascochyta blight. And in a rain fed growing system, this has a major impact on the crops.” - Dr. Jenny Davidson

Dr. Davidson shares that chickpeas became popular in Australia in the 1990’s. The varieties used were susceptible to ascochyta blight leading to the loss of whole crops. The industry only began to grow again once resistant varieties were used. Unfortunately, some of those varieties that had demonstrated resistance for 10 years began showing susceptibility.  Producers are now having to use multiple fungicide spray applications and consider the additional costs in order to make up for this adaptation. 

“What the Australian researchers have done in investigating the pathology of ascochyta rabiei in chickpeas is looking at the population variability of that pathogen, because obviously if you put out resistant types, you’re then putting a selection pressure on the pathogen to create types that can overcome that resistance. So we need to understand what the pathogen is doing.” - Dr. Jenny Davidson

Dr. Davidson’s research has identified that the ascochyta they are facing in chickpeas only reproduces in Australia asexually. Generally this leads to a reduction in the pathogens ability to adapt to resistant varieties but somehow the ascochyta has overcome this and made itself very difficult to manage for producers. The programs to investigate this are coordinated around Australia and the world to isolate the genetic sequences responsible for susceptibility and resistance.  

“What we're hoping is that the resistance that we can get into adapted backgrounds then is handed over to the national breeding programs to get it into something that farmers will really want to grow. So it's a complete “beginning to end” program to try and cover off on the whole thing” - Dr. Jenny Davidson

This Week on Growing Pulse Crops:

  • Meet Dr. Jenny Davidson, a pulse pathologist at South Australian Research Institute, or SARDI, in Adelaide, South Australia
  • Explore the efforts being made to manage pulse crop diseases in Australia and the obstacles researchers are working to overcome
  • Discover what the research focus is to establish ascochyta management on both a national and international basis

Growing Pulse Crops Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.

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About the Podcast

Growing Pulse Crops
The science and business of farming field peas, chickpeas, and lentils
This show features the latest in research, agronomy, and economics of pulse crops (peas, chickpeas, lentils, etc.).

Demand for these nutrient-dense, high-protein foods continues to grow. There is also interest from farmers to include more pulses into diverse rotations for benefits like nitrogen fixation and soil health.

But the industry continues to face challenges, and we are eager to address these head on. So if you’re a pulse grower or in any way interested in these important crops, hit subscribe and stay tuned for future episodes. We’ll be back with plenty of information about challenges pulse farmers are facing throughout the U.S. and what solutions are working.

Brought to you by the Pulse Crops Working Group with support from the North Central IPM Center and USDA NIFA.

About your host

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Tim Hammerich

I share stories about agriculture, agtech, and agribusiness on podcasts and radio.