Get a handle on fusarium head blight

As fusarium head blight continues to spread, growers are becoming more concerned about its increasing severity.

As fusarium head blight continues to spread, growers are becoming more concerned about its increasing severity.

Already well established in Manitoba and Eastern Saskatchewan, the disease is now spreading across Southern Alberta. According to 2020 Seed Labs Inc., counties in Southern Alberta have shown a high risk for developing FHB this year. As growers in Saskatchewan are aware, FHB is a devastating disease. In 2012, FHB cut grain yields by as much as 50 percent in parts of Saskatchewan.

Growers can get a handle on FHB by following these tips:

Weather Forecasts: Rainfall and moisture combined with warmer environment are breeding grounds for FHB. The disease is most likely to thrive when temperatures range from 25 °C to 30 °C and moisture is continuous for 48 hours or more.

Seed System: Plant certified high-yield hybrid seed varieties. Selecting a system with a good herbicide package like Clearfield wheat not only helps result in high yields and profits, but can also lead to lower crop losses.

Certified Seed: Bin-run seed may not be a bargain because it can lead to low quality grain. Certified seed is true to type, meaning the crop will be predictable in terms of yield, lodging, disease resistance, and maturity. Certified seed assures specified germination, contains uniform seed sizes, and provides consistency in planting, crop performance, seedling vigour, and minimal contamination from other crops or varieties.

Planting Date: For FHB to thrive, the disease requires moisture during the flowering or head emergence stage. Staggering the planting period or planting varieties with different maturity stages can help reduce the risk of FHB.

Crop Rotation: Practice a rotation away from cereal crops for at least one year. Avoid seeding cereals into wheat or barley stubble and avoid planting next to fields that had known levels of FHB in the previous year.

Fungicide Application: It is too late to apply fungicides once symptoms are observed. If disease pressure is high, try a two-pass system to increase yield potential at flag leaf and to protect again at heading from FHB and other late leaf diseases. For FHB, fungicides, like Caramba, must be applied at early flowering to protect the opening florets. The window starts when 75 percent of the heads on the main stem are fully emerged and ends when more than 50 percent of the heads are in flower.

Debbie Michielsen from Castor, Alberta, Meadowland tried a 2-pass system to protect her crop.

“This year we sprayed Twinline on everything at flag leaf. Then we went in again at heading and sprayed Caramba. We saw a significant yield boost and grade improvement. Twinline alone was 14% over the untreated check and with Caramba it was 22% over the untreated check. We’re really excited about the two-pass system of Twinline followed by Caramba. We’re going to recommend it to all of our growers next year.”


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