Alberta cereal growers, take it from Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Once you’ve got Fusarium head blight (FHB), it’s tough to eliminate. Incidences of FHB in Alberta are on the rise, but it’s not the end of the world.
To control it or stop the spread, you need to understand it.
The cycle begins with infected crop residue. Spores spread through water or air, infecting wheat, barley, oats or rye.
There’s nothing you can do now about your 2019 crop, but your first and most important step heading into the 2020 growing season is to test your seed.
If a seed lot is found to have a high fusarium percentage, particularly the Graminearum strain, which is the most virulent, seedlings could not emerge at all or they could die, causing poor plant stands. If the seed has more than 5% Graminearum or 14% total Fusarium, do not use it.
If it shows up at a smaller percentage, applying a seed treatment such as Raxil® Pro or Vibrance® Quattro will help increase seedling vigour. However, a seed treatment won’t protect against infection later in the season.
Key infection time is the beginning of flowering in wheat. If you’re concerned about FHB, my best advice is to monitor conditions. Warmth and humidity for two to three days in a row at beginning of flowering can lead to spore spread
If these conditions exist, plan for fungicide such as Prosaro® XTR or Caramba®. Optimal spray timing is when the first flower in the middle of the head is beginning to emerge. Research has shown that this likely gives the broadest window to hit the majority of acres at the right time.
If you don’t catch it, FHB will infect flowers, causing the kernel to shrivel and die or abort the flower. When scouting, you will see pinkish or orange colouring on the head, dead or white heads and shrunken kernels later on.
Manage for the future. Plan your rotation to include a two-year break between susceptible crops to help break down the disease cycle.
Look for wheat varieties that are moderately resistant to FHB, such as the tried and true Brandon or Carberry. This resistance alone will not keep FHB at bay, but it’s another layer of protection.
I hope you never have to worry about FHB on your farm, but following these practices can au you do more than hope. If you have questions about what other actions you could take to keep Fusarium head blight away, contact your Cargill location.
*Always read and follow label directions.
Raxil and Prosaro are registered trademarks of Bayer CropScience. Vibrance is a registered trademark of Syngenta. Caramba is a registered trademark of BASF.