Threat abatement project
Eradication of Phytophthora cinnamomi from spot infections in native plant communities in Western Australia and Tasmania
Prepared by the Centre for Phytophthora Science and Management for the
Australian Government Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, May 2008
About the report
The area of Australian native vegetation in temperate and tropical Australia affected by Phytophthora cinnamomi exceeds many hundreds of thousands of hectares, and continues to increase. In Western Australia alone, greater than 6000 km2 are now infested and 41% of the approximately 6000 plant species in the South West Botanical Province are susceptible. P. cinnamomi and the disease caused by it is a ‘key threatening process to Australia’s Biodiversity’. While the pathogen is widespread and large areas are now infested, many areas of high conservation value remain free of the pathogen. Pathogen free areas could remain so, given effective hygiene and quarantine measures are applied, and if effective methods can be developed to eliminate incursions of the pathogen. To date, there are no robust methods available to eradicate P. cinnamomi from spot infestations or to contain the spread of the pathogen along an active disease front. The need to eradicate or contain the pathogen is now paramount to ensure threatened flora or threatened ecological communities are protected for the long-term. The aim of this study was to develop protocols that can be used to contain and eradicate spot infestations of P. cinnamomi that, if untreated, are likely to threaten extensive areas of native vegetation or areas of high conservation value. Treatment regimes were guided by two assumptions: 1) within the selected sites transmission of the pathogen is by root-to-root contact; and 2) the pathogen is a weakly competitive saprotroph. In Cape Riche, Western Australia, treatment and control plots were set up along an active disease front within scrub-heath vegetation dominated by Banksia spp. Treatments applied sequentially and in combination, included:
- destruction of the largest plants within disease free vegetation forward of the disease front;
- destruction of all plants to create a fallow or ‘dead zone’;
- installation of physical root barriers and subsurface irrigation for the application of fungicide/s;
- surface applications of fungicides selective against Oomycetes (triadiazole and Metalaxyl-M) and;
- surface injection and deep (± 1 m) treatments with the soil fumigant methamsodium.
In a separate experiment in Narawntapu National Park (NP), Tasmania, two treatment regimes were applied to experimental heath plots with active disease centres within a Eucalyptus-Banksia woodland. Treatments were:
- a combined treatment including vegetation removal, Metalaxyl-M and metham-sodium and root barriers and;
- with Metalaxyl-M and root barriers alone.
Standard baiting techniques were used to recover P. cinnamomi from combined soil and root samples, down to 1.5 m deep at Cape Riche, and to 1 m at Narawntapu NP.
Research into natural and induced resistance in Australian native vegetation of Phytophthora cinnamomi and innovative methods to contain and/or eradicate within localised incursions in areas of high biodiversity in Australia.