Australian Grain Crop Hit By Mystery Fungus

Some barley growers in Western Australia, already struggling to harvest crops because of continuing rain, have been turned away from grain depots run by Co-operative Bulk Handling because their grain was infected with a fungus known only as "pink mould".

WA Agriculture Department scientists are racing to identify the mould, believed to be a type of Fusarium fungus, which could potentially leave barley riddled with toxins.

CBH said yesterday it was possible that infected grain could be downgraded to feedstock and did not rule out the possibility that it would have to be dumped.

Downgrading the barley from malting quality to feedstock grade would halve its value. Crop insurance would not cover pink mould, they said.

The south coast was hit by new flooding yesterday, raising the danger that grain would rot, farmers said.

The downpour dumped more than 30mm of rain on some parts of the region, exceeding the monthly average in a single night and closing many roads to all but large farm vehicles.

If the same fungus starts showing up in the wheat crop, it would be a disaster for growers in Australia's largest producing state, where the vast majority of the crop goes for export.