COVID-19 has taught us a lot about the work of pathologists, but what about plant pathologists?
We have all come to know the work of human pathologists and how important they are in the spread of COVID-19.
In the world of agriculture, plant pathologists work hard to stop the spread of disease and put management strategies in place.
For the grain industry, many plant pathologists are trying to determine the cause of the disease, which is especially important in such a wet year with a trigger for excessive humidity.
One of those leading the cause is Dr. Steven Simpfendorfer.
He is a Cereal Plant Pathologist in the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries.
His work includes planting field trials with different crops, analyzing disease development, and then finding a way to manage them.
“We have a decently sized program from Dubbo until [northern] border, ”said Dr Simpfendorfer.
“We do replicated field experiments, usually on small plots. We are trying to look at the management options that producers can use to better manage disease in grain crops.
Diseases affecting research crops
This has turned out to be an interesting year for Dr Simpfendorfer, with consistent rainfall and cooler temperatures providing the perfect breeding ground for certain pathogens.
Crops such as barley and wheat were affected by leaf diseases at some test sites.
“A wet year and mild temperatures really favored extended cycle times for a lot of these pathogens,” he said.
“Disease expression was quite severe in these susceptible crop varieties… so very good data for this year. “
A career change at the start of your career
Dr Simpfendorfer said he initially planned to work in human pathology, but during his studies he discovered his love for the plant equivalent.
“At university, the undergraduate science course was more human-focused and I originally planned to get into forensic pathology,” said Dr Simpfendorfer.
All these years later, Dr Simpfendorfer is now working at the Tamworth Agricultural Institute and leading research and extension programs focusing on cereal crop diseases in northern New South Wales.