Three decades of disease survey data have shown Verticillium wilt was one of the first major diseases of cotton recorded in the 1984–85 season. Survey reports the mean incidence was 4.1% in the 1984–85 season and rose to 16.6% in the 1989–90 season. Prior to 1984 all commercial varieties of cotton available in Australia were susceptible to bacterial blight and the disease was common. The adoption of the resistant varieties contributed to a dramatic decline in the incidence of bacterial blight and the removal of bacterial blight as a significant pathogen to Australian cotton crops by 1992.
Survey results showed the incidence of black root rot increased on farms with a long history of growing cotton during the 1990s. Fusarium wilt of cotton was first reported in New South Wales (NSW) in 1994. The disease is now widespread, being confirmed on 86 NSW farms in six of the eight cotton production areas in NSW. These four significant plant disease ‘problems’ have challenged the cotton industry in NSW.
Data provided by the surveys have indicated the relative importance of each of the diseases present and the impact of cultural practices and the adoption of new varieties on disease distribution, incidence and severity. The results have therefore been used to support and justify requests for research funding and have contributed to the development of Integrated Disease Management strategies.
The NSW Department of Primary Industries continues to monitor the distribution of disease and the incidence and severity present in commercial cotton crops in all production areas of NSW. The aim of this paper is to highlight four significant cotton diseases in Australia and show relationships between cultural practices and declining and increasing incidence of disease.