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Curtin University

Citizen Science

Mildew mania! Investigate the state-wide spread of barley fungal diseases

An invitation to take part in a state-wide science experiment!


Curtin University would like to invite schools to help with an ongoing citizen-science research project aimed at protecting Western Australia’s barley crops from the damaging effect of powdery mildew disease.

In WA, this disease causes the most economic impact on barley. Researchers at Curtin University’s Department of Environment and Agriculture aim to give plant breeders and growers the tools they require to control this disease and therefore reduce the state’s losses.

Barley mildew is currently controlled in two ways, through genetics and through fungicides. But these are both presently compromised.

Genetic resistance to the disease is no longer effective, as the pathogen population can rapidly evolve to overcome the resistance genes that are present in current cultivars. To solve this problem this researchers need to explore which ‘races’ of the pathogen are present in different parts of WA.

The second control is fungicide. Curtin researchers have observed that much of the population is becoming resistant to the most commonly used fungicides. To combat this we need to identify which WA mildew populations are fungicide resistant and which are not.

This is a rare and exciting opportunity for your students to conduct meaningful science research that will have a real impact on Western Australia!

How can you help?

Proposed cost to school

Registration = Free
Seeds and instructions = Free
Scientific analysis = Free
Plastic pots = 3 (25cm pots) x $2.00 = $6.00
Fertiliser = 1 x $10 = $10.00
Potting mix = 1 x $10.00 = $10.00
Postage of results = $4.00
Total = $26.00

Optional – Clear plastic (if ad hoc ‘shade house’ required) = $5.00 (per metre) x 2m = $10.00
Optional – Stakes for shade house = 4 x $2.00 = $8.00

We need your help to trap the strain of barley powdery mildew near you and report your results to us at Curtin University in Bentley.

Once registered, an experiment pack containing full activity instructions and barley seeds will be sent to you. Your class or school will need to grow the barley in a location with ample natural wind exposure to ensure ‘trapping’ of the mildew spores.

You will need to source compost/fertiliser, pots and a small (somewhat partially protected) area to grow the plants (such as a modest shade house or area where students cannot meddle with the plants). Barley is relatively easy to grow and all your experimental plants need would be regular watering, feeding and observation.

Schools can apply for small grants from Curtin University School of Science to assist with the purchase of consumables and equipment (limited available, conditions apply).

Educational value

This activity can be completed by nearly any student body as the experiment can be manipulated to suit a number of year levels.

Junior students can perform all the operations needed to grow, look after and observe the plants. Senior students can be introduced to the concepts of plant disease, genetic resistance (we can include resistant barley cultivars if requested), fungicide control and fungicide resistance.

Current Curriculum Links to science include:

Biological sciences (years 1-10)
Chemical sciences (years 2 & 4)
Earth and space sciences (years 2 -7, 10)
Physical sciences (years 5 only)
Sciences as a human endeavour (year 1- 10)
Science inquiry skills (years 1-10)

Mildew mania electronic resources 2013

Department of agriculture infection rates and spread for mildew.

Certificate of appreciation
Please enter the name of the recipient and school.

2012 map of participants


Science Research Leader
Professor Richard Oliver
Department of Environmental Biology and Agriculture – Curtin University
Australian Centre for Necrotrophic Fungal Pathogens

Science Researcher
Madeline Tucker
PhD Student
Department of Environmental Biology and Agriculture – Curtin University
Australian Centre for Necrotrophic Fungal Pathogens
Phone: 9266 9917

More information and to register your interest

If you or your school would like to take part in this state-wide science experiment, please register at:

Registrations close on the early May 2014.

Contact Science Outreach