Plant industries research

Plant Industries is committed to improving the profitability and sustainability of the agriculture, horticulture and forestry industries through research, development and extension. We work collaboratively with farmers, industry groups, universities, research organisations, and other State and Commonwealth agencies across Australia and internationally. The following information lists the current Plant Industries research.

Entomology

The entomology team focuses their research on effective management systems for economic pests based on integrated pest management approaches using biological, chemical and cultural methods of control.

New fruit fly systems for mangoes and market access

An ongoing research project looking at various aspects of fruit fly mitigation from population ecology, suppression trials, cage trials and oviposition studies. The main aim is to investigate the host status of hard mature mangoes at commercial harvest.

Entomology: A fruit fly on a mango

Mango Leafhopper management

Studies on the population ecology of mango leafhopper under various conditions and studies on non-chemical methods of control, including insect pathogens and attractants.

Mango Fruit Borer

Research into the identity and biology of the mango fruit borer. This includes DNA studies of the species in NT and countries in SE Asia, and collaboration with an overseas laboratory to develop a bait based on the insects sex pheromone.

Termite management

Research on the management of the giant northern termite (Mastotermes darwiniensis) and other termites attacking horticultural and forest crops in NT.

Northern Territory Economic Insect Reference Collection (NTEIRC)

The entomology team manages and studies this important research collection which contains over 47,000 accessions of insects and mites from crops in the NT. The data from the collection form part of the national Australian Plant Pest Database.

Plant pathology

This team identifies and characterises previously unreported plant pathogens, and researches how to manage pathogens and protect our important industries.

Plant pathology: A series of photos of rust from infections to spores under the microscope

Banana Plant Protection Program

Research to develop of a plant protection program for bananas, assessing different varieties for pest resistance. Evaluate disinfectants and their efficacy in killing the Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense spores. Develop a quantitative real time Polymerase chain reaction  (PCR) assay to detect the fungus in soil, in collaboration with the South Australian Research and Development Institute.

Characterisation and Management of Fusarium Wilt of Watermelon

Research to characterise and understand Fusarium Wilt of watermelon This includes characterising the Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. niveum race that is causing watermelon wilt in the NT; evaluations of rootstocks and seedless watermelons to their susceptibility to Fusarium infection, improved molecular diagnostics and the effect of temperature on affected watermelon plants.

Characterisation and identification of plant pathogens

Research to identify and characterise previously unreported pathogens.

Molecular Diagnostics

This team utilises modern biotechnology and applies it to develop molecular diagnostic tools to assist in the rapid detection of plant pests of important economic crops. The team provides technical expertise in the molecular discipline for the Plant Industries Development Division.

Molecular diagnostics: A range of agar plates

Improved Management Options for Cucumber Green Mottle Mosaic Virus (CGMMV)

Key research areas to determine the importance of weed, non-host plants and honey bees in CGMMV disease epidemiology; evaluate the potential for in-field diagnostics to assist in rapid detection of the virus on farms. This research will develop multilingual communication materials to assist cucurbit growers with management options, including on-farm biosecurity protocols. 

Investigating the molecular mechanisms behind flowering in Magnifera indica (Mango)

This team supports a PhD research project to investigate the molecular mechanisms behind flowering in mangoes, what genes are triggered and what proteins are expressed at the optimal time and whether these conditions can be manipulated.

For more information read the Investigating the molecular mechanisms behind flowering in Mangifera indica fact sheet (602.6 kb).

Nucleic acid accessions including the phytoplasma reference collection

The molecular team manages the SE Asian/Northern Australia phytoplasma reference collection and it is the biggest of its kind in Australia with over 4500 DNA accessions. In addition, the collection also holds thousands of nucleic acids from NT biosecurity incursions from mango malformation, Fusarium wilt of watermelon, Panama Wilt, African mahogany angular leaf spot, banana freckle, Cucumber green mottle mosaic virus, mango leafhopper, fruit flies and mango fruit borer. The collection also holds DNA samples from Plant Industries research projects.

Crop diversification

The Crop Diversification Team undertakes strategic research, development and extension to develop cropping systems suited to the range of environments in the NT. This cropping systems research builds on the past decades of crop variety and agronomic research to deliver diversified options for Territory agricultural businesses.  Extension and industry development are key components of the work of the Crop Diversification Team.

Crop diversification: A common pasture grass -Tully

Central Australian Horticultural project

Investigate the potential for new and existing horticulture industries in Central Australia.

Improved Pastures research

Investigate new pasture genetics for tropical environments. Engage the grazing industry in cropping options to diversify agricultural production on pastoral leases.

Cropping system for tropical Northern Territory

Use crop simulations and in-field crop agronomy to develop farming systems and crop rotations that are suited to the climate, soils and irrigation options. This work aims to assist current producers become more profitable and sustainable, while reducing investment risk for new producers.

New crops

Testing new crop species for inclusion in existing farming operations and new varieties for the development of new agricultural industries in the NT.

Sustainable farming systems

This team works closely with farmers and scientists across plant industries commodities to measure and understand sustainable nutrient and water use and to aid continue improvement in production quality and quantity. Our research considers the whole-farm system to enable plant industry enterprises to better manage their natural resource and adapt to the changing environment.

Sustainable farm systems: Automatic gas chambers sampling for greenhouse gas emissions

Nitrogen fertiliser management strategies for plant industries in Northern Australia

Understanding where and how nitrogen fertiliser moves through plants, soil and into the atmosphere, in order to improve productivity and reduce waste.

Optimising nutrient management for improved productivity and fruit quality in mangoes

Management strategies to increase the quantity and quality of mango yields, whilst effectively mitigating loss of fertiliser applied nitrogen (N) to the environment. The research team will use stable isotopes to quantify plant N demand, soil supply and current practice N use efficiency (NUE) to develop best management practices for optimising N fertiliser use, including enhanced efficiency fertilisers (EEF). The project aims to maximise NUE in the Australian mango industry to increase productivity, profitability and good environmental management.

Investigating the possible contribution of nutrients towards the development of Resin Canal Disorder (RCD) by evaluating the composition or balance of nutrients in mango fruit. 

For more information:

Land use mapping

Data produced in this project will generate free mapping products that are fundamentally important to farmers, industry groups, developers and many others. The team is part of the first major update to the Territory's land use maps in over 10 years, it will identify how much land, and which areas, are devoted to all land uses. The output will facilitate better biosecurity risk management and emergency disease preparedness, inform decisions about regional development.

Agricultural viability within the North Australia Water Resource Assessment

Most of northern Australia’s land and water resources have not been mapped in sufficient detail to support reliable resource allocation or to mitigate investment or environmental risks. The team is part of a collaborative project to produce information to enable private investment and government spending on development to be soundly targeted and designed, and to ensure that net sustainable development benefits are maximised.

Silvicultural systems to optimise value from northern Australian Mahogany Plantations

This project will identify the silvicultural inputs necessary to optimize the value of the African mahogany (Khaya senegalensis ) from existing and future plantations in northern Australia, by determining the impact of silvicultural inputs (pruning, mid-rotation thinning and fertilization) on the log and wood quality of the Northern Territory’s African mahogany for the market specifications, whilst ensuring the profitability of Territory forestry growers.

Tropical horticulture

Working in partnership with plant industry enterprises, this team provides research development and extension services that increase profitability and sustainability by enhancing productivity and product quality of our important horticultural commodities.

Tropical horticulture: A field of hybridised curcumas

Manipulating mango flowering to extend harvest window

Develop management practices with a view to manipulating the mango harvest window.

This project covers a number of different approaches including manipulating floral induction with growth promoting foliar sprays. 

For more information read the Manipulation of mango flowering fact sheet (476.6 kb).

Another approach under investigation is the use of tip-pruning to influence bud development. This project takes advantage of the progressively cooler weather in Katherine to understand the effects of night temperatures on developing mango buds, potentially manipulating fruiting times, and improving productivity and profitability for mango farmers. 

For more information read the Impact of pruning time on bud and shoot development (maturity) in Honey Gold and Calypso mangoes in Katherine fact sheet (569.3 kb).

Ornamental research program

Investigate the further development of ornamental Curcuma hybrids for commercialisation and the production of new varieties through mutagenesis.

Building a resilient mango industry in Cambodia and Australia through improved production and supply chain practices

This project has a team of plant scientist from floral biologists, plant nutritionists, entomologists, pathologists, molecular diagnosticians in NT and Cambodia to optimise management strategies and increasing integrated pest management work in the region. 

For more information read the Building a resilient mango industry in Cambodia and Australia through improved production and supply chain practices fact sheet (1.0 mb).

Last updated: 11 May 2017