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Plant & Soil Health

The Plant and Soil Health program assists plant industries by providing targeted research and information solutions in cereal, pulse, horticulture, viticulture and pasture pathology, chemical control, bio-inoculants as well as the development and delivery of high-throughput molecular and immunological diagnostics. Integrated plant health solutions are achieved through scientific strengths in mycology, nematology, molecular diagnostics and microbiology linked to national and international collaborative networks.

Principal scientist: Dr. Kathy Ophel Keller

Plant Pathology

The program provides information and solutions on disease management for horticulture, viticulture, pulse and oilseed, cereal and pasture crops. Key strengths are significant plant disease diagnostic capability, and ability to provide integrated disease management including advice on chemical and biological control. Disease resistance information, including nematode resistance and tolerance, is delivered to cereal, pulse and pasture breeding and research programs.

Key contacts:

Horticulture Pathology: Barbara Hall
Pulse and Oilseed Pathology: Jenny Davidson
Pasture Pathology: Ross Ballard
Cereal Pathology: Dr. Hugh Wallwork 


The unit offers plant disease identification services across all plant industries. The unit operates a post-entry plant quarantine facility, and coordinates quarantine compliance on Waite Campus.

Key Contact: Barbara Hall 

Soil Microbiology

The program has extensive experience in the development of Rhizobium inoculants for pasture and grain legumes, as well as development and testing of composts/inoculants for management of soil borne pathogens. The group has worked closely with breeding programs to characterise and develop pasture varieties that are able to form effective symbioses.

Key contact: Ross Ballard 

Molecular Diagnostics

The group has unique, world-leading expertise and infrastructure to develop and deliver DNA based tests for quantification of fungal and nematode pathogens, weed seeds, beneficial soil microflora and plant roots in soil. The technology developed by the group has been commercialised for grain growers in Australia, and has been extended to monitoring of environmental impact in aquatic sediments.

Key contact: Dr. Alan McKay 


The unit offers research services in nematode identification and large-scale rapid plant screening for plant parasitic nematodes.

Key Contact: John Lewis