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Completed project

A multi-faceted approach to soilborne disease management (VG15010)

Key research provider: Applied Horticultural Research
Publication date: Friday, May 10, 2019

What was it all about?

This project, which ran from 2015 to 2018, looked at potential management strategies for soilborne diseases, including chemical, cultural and biological options, to find better options for growers. It also set out to identify areas of research that would address knowledge gaps for some diseases and crops. The key recommendation to arise from the project is that growers should shift emphasis of disease management to prevention. Once a soilborne disease is in a crop there are few post-plant treatment options to prevent its progression, so measures to keep diseases out need to be prioritised. 

Soilborne diseases cost Australia’s $4 billion vegetable industry an estimated $120 million, and problems are worsening as vegetable production trends to shortened crop rotations. There are also declining chemical control options available for use.

The team made a thorough review of the literature to find out what the priorities for the research should be—which soilborne diseases, hosts and regions. They reviewed previous Australian research, consulted with growers, agronomists and advisors as well as pathologists and nematologists, and considered the value of production of various crops.

Following prioritisation, a suite of projects were carried out, including:  

  • Control of sclerotium rot of chillies
  • Managing damping off in babyleaf spinach
  • Use of cover crops to reduce soilborne diseases
  • Grafting cucumbers to disease-resistant rootstocks.

As results became available, the team communicated the findings from the projects through best-practice demonstration sites, field days, workshops, videos, fact sheets and other digital resources, as well as integration with Soil wealth and integrated crop protection – phase 2 (VG16078)(

Between 2015 and 2018, more than 650 growers and advisers attended 25 events held to relay findings to growers and work on new management options.

The annual soilborne disease masterclass provided a “hothouse” for growers, advisers and the project team to integrate cultural, chemical and biological management options and tailor these to specific production systems. Following the masterclass, 80 per cent of participants reported that they had introduced, or fine-tuned practices to better manage soilborne diseases, and more than two-thirds of growers and advisers felt they were better equipped to deal with them.

Grower recommendations

The project developed a wide range of resources to help growers and advisors to build an integrated management approach that’s tailored to their cropping system, risk levels, market requirements, soils and climate.

The research team recommends that growers and advisors move to a preventative approach by:

  • Understanding their soilborne disease. Correctly identifying and understanding the disease life cycle will help target management options most effectively.

  • Understanding what paddocks and seasons are most susceptible to soilborne diseases for your key crops. New tests for soilborne diseases (e.g. Predicta, see VG15009) are available to help with this.

  • Focusing preventative actions during the fallow and planting preparation phase, to set up the soil and crop, ahead of time.

Growers need to move to an integrated management plan that targets vulnerable stages of the soilborne disease as well as creating a soil environment that’s not favourable for the disease.

To get some help, you can watch webinars and videos or download fact sheets on particular topics, which are linked below.


Access these resources produced by the project below or you can head to the dedicated Soil Wealth website.


A practical guide to identifying and controlling soilborne diseases in vegetable crops. The book is divided into chapters based on vegetable crop families, their symptoms and a summary of disease management options.

Fact sheets

Spreadsheet tool

The project developed a partial budget spreadsheet tool that can be used to assess practice change on vegetable farms. You can download the fact sheet and spreadsheet here.