Fusarium: A Growing Issue?

According to the Canadian Grains Commission, in 2016 approximately half of hard red spring wheat samples in Western Canada were impacted by Fusarium. So what does this statement mean for the farmer? Fusarium Head Blight (FHB) is a fungal disease in various cereal crops that stops kernel development. Wheat is the most prevalent cereal affected by FHB, but barley, oats, and some forages can also develop it. Fusarium graminearum is the primary species involved in Western Canada. One of the most debilitating effects that fusarium has is not yield loss, rather downgrading in quality due to the presence of fusarium damaged kernels. These damaged kernels can appear shriveled in wheat, in barley FHB first appears as bleaching of individual or several spikelets and looking at the spikelets will show small shriveled seed and will eventually become chalk white.

Effects of Fusarium head blight are greater the earlier it strikes

There are many precautions farmers can take to help reduce the incidence of fusarium in their crop. One of the largest factors of FHB is weather. FHB is more prevalent in humid regions. High levels of moisture favour the disease, with temperatures around 25 degrees C. As many people know, we can’t control the weather so scientist created fungicide that can be applied on wheat at 20% flower, and on barley at full head emergence. These fungicides are for the suppression of the disease and are not a curative measure. Since fusarium can over winter as mycelium or spores in crop debris, crop rotation is incredibly important.  Having a break of one to two years is a good practice, along with finding a more resistant variety of wheat, barley or oats to seed.

That being said 2016 was a tough year for diseases. With the later bought of moisture we experienced in our area, disease pressure was high across all crops. If you are unsure of what to look for ask your local Cavalier Agrow Agronomist.