Fingerprinting a nutty culprit

By Country News

Scientists have discovered a fungal fingerprint for a disease that cost Australia’s chestnut industry more than $5million in 2016.

Investigations funded by Farming Together saw CSIRO scientists discover chemical markers for nut rot, which is internal and cannot be seen until the nut is opened.

The fungus, Gnomoniopsis smithogilvyi, was tracked with non-invasive detection technology.

CSIRO senior researcher Tanoj Singh said it was the first type of work undertaken for chestnuts within Australia, and is thought to be an international first.

In 2016, humidity and moisture forced Australian growers to destroy more than 40 per cent of the national crop due to nut rot, wiping more than $5million from the industry’s value.

Dr Singh said the detection technology measured levels of chemical compounds, called volatiles, released by trees.

The researchers found four biomarker compounds released by infected chestnut burrs and nuts.

Project leader Trevor Ranford said the finding was a ‘‘great breakthrough’’.

‘‘Better understanding the nut rot organism will help us work towards an effective method of isolating nuts with this internal rot,’’ Mr Ranford said.

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