NORTHERN NEW SOUTH WALES CROP DISEASES
Mr NEILLY: I ask the Minister for Agriculture, and Minister for Land and Water
Conservation: what is the Government doing about the recent outbreak of crop diseases in northern New South Wales?
Mr AMERY: The Department of Agriculture has brought to my attention the fact that there are problems in some northern New South Wales crops. Similar problems are occurring in Queensland. The problems have resulted in greatly reduced wheat and barley yields and a significant reduction in quality due to pinched grain, which occurs when the grain is starved of nutrients and has an unusually heavy incidence of disease.
The problems in pulse crops such as chick peas and faba beans have been major crop losses due to diseases such as blight and chocolate spot. These have been caused apparently by the excessively wet growing conditions this season, which caused the development of a number of fungal diseases affecting the roots and leaves of crop plants such as wheat and barley. Premature death of the leaves means that the plant’s ability to produce grain is restricted. This is particularly disappointing to growers since the crops appeared until recently to have very high yield potential.
In Goondiwindi, Queensland, where wheat crops received sufficient rainfall to yield up to four tonnes per hectare, they have yielded one tonne per hectare, and much of that has been downgraded due to pinched grain. The New South Wales barley harvest has begun in the north and early indications are that the crop is experiencing similar serious yield and quality problems. In a further development, satellite information has disclosed that last night’s frost has the potential also to affect crop yields. Wheat harvesting in the northern border area of New South Wales is imminent.
Today I have established as a matter of priority an expert team from New South Wales Agriculture and the New South Wales Farmers Association to investigate the situation in northern New South Wales. The team comprises Dr Lindsay Cook, chief of the plant industries division of New South Wales Agriculture, and Martin May, the cereal products program manager of New South Wales Agriculture, as well as a representative of the New South Wales Farmers Association and a prominent wheat grower in the State’s north. The team will use all available resources of New South Wales Agriculture, consult with local industry and Graincorp and report back to me as a matter of urgency. The problem has implications not only for the current harvest but also for the planning and management of next year’s crop. What I have announced today is an important first step to investigate the problem and look at ways to respond to it as soon as possible. When the investigation has been completed I will advise honourable members of the results.
Questions without notice concluded.