Pasture Dieback Research.

Pasture Dieback has affected the productivity of highly valuable sown and native pastures across Queensland.

The cause of Pasture Dieback is still unknown and is the focus of numerous research projects implemented to not only identify the causal agent but strategize management protocols. Symptoms of the condition include the senescence of pastures (known to affect summer pastures) in small to moderately sized patches. Within these patches the infected pastures will dieback and broadleaf weeds and legumes later colonise the area.

AgEtal’s Pasture Dieback Research

In 2018, several tropical seed producers approached AgEtal to identify what was causing Pasture Dieback (PD). At the time, reports indicated some 200,000 acres of forage had succumbed and our pastoral industry was desperate for answers.

AgEtal decided to embark on our own independent research with a focus on a complex pathogenic matrix (see article ‘AgEtal’s Pasture Dieback Research’ below for full story). Investigations uncovered a seemingly unidentifiable insect that left industry experts baffled; that was until we discovered the Pasture Dieback Research being conducted at the University of Queensland.

UQ researchers Anthony Young and Melody Thomson had also discovered this insect and identified it as White Ground Pearl (Margaroides australis). AgEtal have since supported this valuable research that hopes to safeguard the sustainability and profitability of our pastoral industry and aid in the recovery of sown and native pastures.


The University of Queensland’s Pasture Dieback Research

Ground Pearl- An emerging Pest in QLD Pastures and potential Pasture Dieback Causal Agent

Ground pearls (Hemiptera: Margarodidae) are a notorious plant pest that attack grass species. Once Ground Pearls become established there is no known way to control this insect. The presence of the White Ground Pearl, Margarodes australis, in pastures at multiple locations across Queensland is a concern for Queensland’s grazing industry. Identifying areas where this pest is present and further research is required to determine the threat this pest poses to Queensland’s pastoral land.

One of the main objectives of our research would be to confirm or exclude Ground Pearls (Margarodes australis) as the primary causal agent of Pasture Dieback. This would be investigated by infesting grass species under controlled conditions with Ground Pearl cysts and monitoring for symptoms. Continuing association mapping of Ground Pearls at Pasture Dieback sites – noting where they are present and where they are not present – would also provide further information in terms of the spread of this pest. By further investigating Ground Pearl biology under controlled conditions, management solutions could be developed to control this insect.

Another key objective of this research would be to develop a remote sensing diagnostic tool for identifying Pasture Dieback sites. This tool would be a remote early-warning system and could confirm the climatic factors that are associated with Pasture Dieback symptom expression

UQ Researcher Profiles

  • Anthony Young

    Dr. Anthony Young is a Senior Lecturer in Crop Protection at The University of Queensland. He has major interests in pest and disease identification and management with a view towards improving food security. His work has helped identify a range of previously unknown causes of plant diseases. In addition to his research, he teaches plant protection, biosecurity, and plant and environmental health on the Gatton Campus.

  • Melody Thomson

    Ms Melody Thomson is a recent graduate from the Bachelor of Agricultural Science (Hons) degree at The University of Queensland where she just completed her Honours year investigating Pasture Dieback. Her primary interest is the complex interaction between soils, plants and pests/diseases. She is planning to commence a PhD further investigating the potential causes, early identification and control of Pasture Dieback.


Learn more about the latest in Pasture Dieback Research through the articles below

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