The man behind the chickpea crop

Kevin Moore celebrated for 53 years of service through the NSW DPI

AgQuip News
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Chickpea researcher Kevin Moore celebrated for his 53 years of service to agriculture

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It's not often researchers are recognised for their contribution and service to agriculture, most of the time their efforts and achievements are looked at incrementally.

However when you step back and look at the 53 year career of NSW Department of Primary Industries senior pathologist Dr Kevin Moore, it is indisputable that the northern chickpea industry would have failed without him.

Dr Moore was recognised for his service at the annual AgQuip grains industry research forum following his presentation on the implications of dry conditions on future disease load.

Presented by NSW DPI deputy director general Kate Lorimer-Ward, the recognition in front of the growers and agronomists he has advised for so many years was a particularly apt tribute.

Ms Lorimer-Ward said Dr Moore's career with the NSW DPI began when he attended the University of Sydney to study agricultural science as a department cadet in 1966.

A graduate of Hurlstone Agricultural High School, Dr Moore was only 16 at the time of his enrolment in the degree.

Ms Lorimer-Ward said Dr Moore's first position with the department included carrying out research into crop diseases, both in the lab and the field, surveying paddocks and to deliver lectures to grower organisations on the outcomes of the research.

"I think that is what his position description looks like now, he has continued to do that over 50 years," she said.

Ms Lorimer-Ward said Dr Moore was first appointed to Tamworth in 1971 and in 1974 he received a wheat industry research scholarship to complete his PhD at Washington State University, which investigated wheat take-all and it's management practices.

"He was the top student in his group and the comment was made 'whatever investment the department made in Kevin's research program would probably pay,' I think those were very wise words from that time," she said.

"After a brief stint as acting director of biology, Kevin was transferred to the Tamworth Agricultural Research Centre in June 1980, Kevin had requested to move to more regular access to farmers, fields and research paddocks, and proposed to do research on the development of diseases in cropping systems using reduced cultivation, direct drilling and alternative crops such as pulses and rapeseeds."

Ms Lorimer-Ward particularly acknowledged Dr Moore's extensive contribution to the chickpea industry.

"In September 1998 Kevin was the first person to identify the chickpea pathogen Aschochyta blight in eastern Australia," she said.

"At the time chickpea production was expanding and Aschochyta had the potential to destroy the industry, which had no plant based resistance to fall back on.

"Kevin understood the significance and the threat and responded to what remained of the 1998 season, to come to grips with the issue and potential solutions.

"He quickly developed a program of research, crop surveys and extension to better understand the disease."

Ms Lorimer-Ward said Dr Moore's work, in conjunction with chickpea breeder Dr Ted Knights and colleagues in Queensland created a chickpea management package.

"This chickpea package has kept growers profitable and helped to save the northern industry," she said.

"Over time working with the breeding program, plant resistance was improved, while the disease surveys, seed treatments and in-crop fungicide packages continue to lay the foundation of the current industry in the northern region.

"Kevin's contribution to building the chickpea industry in its current state was recognised with numerous awards, including NSW DPI staff contribution awards, Pulse Australia awards, the Brownhill Cup with the chickpea breeding team and the prestigious GRDC Seed of Light award."

NSW DPI Tamworth Agricultural Institute director Guy McMullen said Dr Moore's name was synonymous with the chickpea industry.

"What he has done for the chickpea industry since the Aschochyta outbreak in 1998, when he first found the disease in eastern Australia, and his work to bring the chickpea industry to where it is today is matched by nobody," he said.

"Kevin's rapport with industry, growers and agronomists, and his work with chemical companies is second to none.

"He has always had a massive focus on making sure he delivers research that growers and agronomists can use the next time they enter a chickpea crop."

GRDC northern panel chair John Minogue said Dr Moore had made a massive contribution to the grains industry.

"He has a great rapport with growers and agronomists and has delivered huge research outcomes," he said.

On accepting the award Dr Moore said he was proud of his years of service.

"Its been a wonderful journey, made possible and made most enjoyable though farmers, agronomists and colleagues," he said.

"I wouldn't be here today if I didn't enjoy the job and it is because of you people that I am still here, so I salute you."

Disease surveys

In his presentation to growers and advisors at the AgQuip grains research forum, Dr Moore said he had recently conducted 75 surveys of pulse crops, located as far north as Clermont in central Queensland and as far south as Curbin in central NSW.

"The majority of crops were in Queensland, which is not what we generally see, 64 chickpeas and 11 faba beans," he said.

"There was no disease, no surprise in a year like this, there was a little bit of virus and frost, all the faba beans I looked at had evidence of frost damage, Group C herbicide damage was also common."

Dr Moore said there were a number of things farmers and agronomists needed to consider in seasons following drought years.

"Drought reduces the breakdown of plant tissues, and most of the pathogens that we work on survive on plant tissue," he said.

"Some also survive in soil as resting structures and under dry conditions they last longer.

"Abandoned crops set seed that can be infected with these pathogens and bugs in the soil that can be antagonistic to pathogens often decline.

"The bottom line is the rotational benefits we would normally expect may not occur following drought years."

Dr Moore said while he had not found evidence of disease in crops, he had seed volunteer chickpeas in a paddock of 2019 wheat infected with Aschochyta which had survived since the 2016 chickpea crop.

"Herbicides do not kill the Aschochyta fungus, so if this paddock goes into chickpeas in 2020 the paddock will be high risk," he said.

"Aschochyta is readily manageable, thanks to growers investment and the co-investment through the GRDC we have managed to develop integrated disease management packages that are highly effective against Aschochyta in chickpeas.

"So no farmer should loose money to Aschochyta blight, if you do it is because you are doing something wrong.

"For every dollar you invest in an Aschochyta fungicide, in a season favourable to the disease, you will get $17.57 back, based on $650 a tonne for chickpeas, so it is highly cost effective."

The story The man behind the chickpea crop first appeared on Farm Online.

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