Potential exotic virus threats to lucerne seed production in Australia

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In 2010, a severe disease of lucerne was reported from Argentina. Due to the economic importance of lucerne in Argentina and Australia, and the sudden impact of ADD in Argentina, a collaborative research proposal was developed in consultation with AgriFutures™ Pasture Seeds Program to investigate the risks that ADD might pose to the Australian lucerne industry.

This research aims to protect the Australian lucerne seed and hay industry from the exotic alfalfa dwarf disease (ADD), which has major negative impacts on production in Argentina. ADD is associated with five viruses; this project led to the development of sensitive diagnostic assays for these viruses and their use to survey Australian seed and hay crops. Collaborative research in Argentina aimed to determine ADD epidemiology and genetic diversity of the viruses involved.

Based on our limited, targeted surveys of lucerne crops, there is no evidence of alfalfa dwarf virus in Australia. There is a risk of accidental introduction of the major exotic virus involved in the disease. Biosecurity measures should be put in place to prevent the introduction of alfalfa leaf curl virus (ALCV) into Australia. Grower vigilance and early detection will be key to keeping the industry safe from ADD.

This report includes a draft contingency plan developed, based on the knowledge gathered during this project, to help keep Australia free of the disease.

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