Don’t let Fusarium Head Blight Keep You Down – Prepare Now to Harvest Those Scabby Wheat Fields

Damon L. Smith, Extension Field Crops Pathologist, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Shawn P. Conley, Extension Soybean and Small Grains Agronomist, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Figure 1. FHB on some wheat heads. Note the bleached and reddened appearance of infected kernels.

Fusarium head blight (FHB) or scab has been observed at moderate to high levels in some Wisconsin winter wheat fields this season. Incidence and severity have been variable by location, susceptibility of the wheat variety, and if a fungicide was applied at or shortly after anthesis. Generally, we have observed more FHB in the southern and south-central wheat growing areas of the state, but it can be found just about everywhere we have visited this year. It is important to scout your maturing wheat crop and consider how much damage from FHB might be in a field as you prepare for harvest. While FHB can cause direct yield loss, the fungus that causes this disease can also produce deoxynivalenol (also known as DON or vomitoxin). Assessing wheat fields now can assist you in determining how much vomitoxin might be expected at harvest. However, it is possible to find high levels of vomitoxin in finished grain, even if FHB levels where low.

What does scab look like? Diseased spikelets on an infected grain head die and bleach prematurely (Fig. 2).  Healthy spikelets on the same head retain their normal green color.  Over time, premature bleaching of spikelets may progress throughout the entire grain head.  If infections occur on the stem immediately below the head, the entire head may die.  As symptoms progress, developing grains are colonized causing them to shrink and wrinkle.  Often, infected kernels have a rough, sunken appearance, and range in color from pink or soft gray, to light brown. As wheat dries down, visual inspection of heads for scab will become more difficult.

Figure 2. Fusarium head blight of winter wheat

Why is identifying scab important? Scab identification is important, not only because it reduces yield, but also because it reduces the quality and feeding value of grain.  In addition, the FHB fungus may produce mycotoxins, including DON or vomitoxin, that when ingested, can adversely affect livestock and human health.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has set maximum allowable levels of DON in feed for various animal systems, these are as follows: beef and feedlot cattle and poultry < 10ppm; Swine and all other animals < 5ppm. In addition, local grain elevators test for DON and discount loads of grain for unacceptable levels of the mycotoxin. Be sure to check with your local elevator about their thresholds for docking grain and discount schedule based on the level of DON detected BEFORE you bring a load for delivery.

What should I do to prepare for wheat harvest?

  1. Scout your fields now to assess risk. Wheat is maturing rapidly. As maturity progresses it will be increasingly difficult to assess the incidence and severity of the infection. Understanding a field’s risk will help growers either field blend or avoid highly infected areas so entire loads are not rejected.
  2. DO NOT spray fungicide now. Research has demonstrated that the window of opportunity to manage FHB with fungicides is at the beginning of anthesis and only lasts about 7 days. Applications later than 7 days after the start of anthesis are not effective in controlling FHB. In addition, most fungicide labels do not allow a pre-harvest interval (PHI) suitable for a late application on wheat. Any application now would be off-label.
  3. Adjust combine settings to blow out lighter seeds and chaff. Salgado et al. 2011 indicated that adjusting a combine’s fan speed between 1,375 and 1,475 rpms and shutter opening to 90 mm (3.5 inches) resulted in the lowest discounts that would have been received at the elevator due to low test weight, % damaged kernels, and level of the mycotoxin deoxynivalenol (DON; vomitoxin) present in the harvested grain.
  4. Know your elevators inspection and dockage procedure and discount schedule (each elevator can have a different procedure and discount rate).
  5. Scabby kernels does not necessarily mean high DON levels and vice versa. For example, in a 2014 fungicide evaluation very low visible levels of FHB were observed for all treatments. However, when the finished grain was tested for DON, significant levels were identified for all treatments. Be sure to test and know what levels of DON are in your grain even if you didn’t see a high level of visible disease. Also, don’t assume that because a fungicide was used, there will be no DON.
  6. DON can be present in the straw so there is concern regarding feeding or using scab infected wheat straw.  DO NOT use straw for bedding or feed from fields with high levels of scab (Bissonnette et al., 2018; Cowger and Arellano, 2013). If in doubt, have the straw tested for DON levels.
  7. Do not save seed from a scab-infected field. Fusarium graminearum can be transmitted via seed. Infected seeds will have decreased growth and tillering capacity as well as increased risk for winterkill.
  8. Do not store grain from fields with high levels of scab.  DON and other mycotoxins can continue to increase in stored grain.
  9. Harvest in a timely fashion to minimize elevator discounts and balance dockage due to FHB. Click here to read about some recent research on optimizing harvest timing in winter wheat.
  10. For more information on Fusarium head blight click here.

References

  1. Bissonnette, K.M., Kolb, F.L., Ames, K.A., and Bradley, C.A. Effect of Fusarium head blight management practices on mycotoxin accumulation of wheat straw. Plant Dis. 102:1141-1147.
  2. Cowger, C., and Arellano, C. 2013. Fusarium graminearum infection and deoxynivalenol concentrations during development of wheat spikes. Phytopathology 103:460-471.
  3. Salgado, J. D., Wallhead, M., Madden, L. V., and Paul, P. A. 2011. Grain harvesting strategies to minimize grain quality losses due to Fusarium head blight in wheat. Plant Dis. 95:1448-1457.

Wisconsin Winter Wheat Disease Update – June 28, 2019

Damon Smith, Extension Field Crops Pathologist, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Brian Mueller, Assistant Field Researcher, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

The Badger Crop Docs have been busy scouting production wheat fields and University of Wisconsin-Madison winter wheat variety trials and management trials around the wheat growing region of Wisconsin. Wheat heading and anthesis was very uneven this season. At several locations we visited, we could observe some varieties still in anthesis, while others had finished flowering for some time.  Even within plot, variability existed. This variability has resulted in some difficulty in managing diseases.

Fusarium Head Blight Starting to Show Up

Figure 1. Fusarium head blight of winter wheat

We are beginning to see Fusarium head blight (FHB or scab) showing up in many of the locations we have visited. More scab is apparent in the southern locations, especially in the Arlington area. As you might expect it does vary by variety, but in susceptible varieties incidence is running in the 5-10% range, with more expected to become apparent next week. The primary challenge managing scab this season, has been the uneven anthesis timing. Applications of fungicides for managing scab should begin at anthesis and continue until about 7 days after the start of anthesis. Uneven anthesis across a field can complicate the fungicide application timing, as some heads might be at the right growth stage while others might be still in the boot or already past anthesis. Multiple site-years of research in Wisconsin and the Midwest show that if fungicide is applied before anthesis or 10 days or more after anthesis, poor control of FHB will be achieved with a corresponding unacceptable reduction of vomitoxin. As we get closer to harvest, it will be important to scout your wheat for scab and determine how much damage is present. Careful harvest and cleaning will be necessary in these fields to make sure vomitoxin limits come in below thresholds where dockage and rejection occur for your elevator. Be sure you are familiar with your elevators dockage policies before hauling loads of grain. Each elevator has different rules and regulations.

What is the Situation with Rusts in Wisconsin on Winter Wheat?

Figure 2. Stripe rust on the flag leaf of winter wheat.

We have observed very low levels of both leaf rust and stripe rust. Stripe rust has been observed at extremely low levels, at less than 5% incidence in only one variety at both the Fond du Lac and Sharon uniform variety trial locations. Leaf rust has been observed at similar levels on several varieties in the Arlington uniform variety trial. The late arrival of both of these rusts in Wisconsin will likely result in little yield impact. A fungicide application IS NOT recommended at this point in the season.

Tan Spot is Present At Many Locations

Tan spot has been observed in the lower canopy of wheat at all locations we have visited. The heaviest pressure has been at the Sharon and Arlington locations, with minimal pressure at the Fond du Lac and Chilton locations. Tan spot is remaining in the lower canopy in wheat treated with a fungicide. At Arlington, wheat in several research trials not treated with fungicide have significant tan spot on the flag leaves. If tan spot has reached the flag leaf at this point, yield may be negatively affected. With that said, a fungicide is NOT recommended at this time of season.

Cephalosporium Stripe Present in Sharon and Fond du Lac

Figure 3. Cephalosporium stripe on winter wheat.

We have also observed Cephalosporium stripe in both the Sharon and Fond du Lac uniform variety trials. This is a newer disease of winter wheat in Wisconsin, but has been observed over the past 2 seasons at the Fond du Lac location. This is the first year we have observed Cephalosporium stripe at the Sharon location. At this location, pressure is uniform and significant on several varieties. We observed incidence ranging from 0 to 90% depending on the variety. We believe that pressure is higher this year due to winter heaving and cool wet conditions this spring. No in-season management is available for Cephalospyrium stripe. However, noting which fields and locations in fields that have symptoms will help for future decisions about winter wheat management in those areas. Varieties with genetic resistance are available. Also longer rotations and better grassy-weed control can help reduce the severity of Cephalospyrium stripe. For more information about Cephalospyrium stripe CLICK HERE AND SCROLL DOWN TO THE CEPHALOSPORIUM STRIPE SECTION.

 

Wisconsin Winter Wheat Disease Update – June 4, 2019

Damon Smith, Extension Field Crops Pathologist, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Brian Mueller, Assistant Field Researcher, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Wheat heads are close to emergence on some earlier varieties of winter wheat in southern and south-central Wisconsin. Within the next week wheat heads will be emerging and anthesis (flowering) will be starting, with later varieties to follow. Now is the time to prepare for Fusarium head blight (FHB or scab) management. The Fusarium head blight Risk Model (http://www.wheatscab.psu.edu) is showing moderate to high levels of risk in the primary wheat growing region of the state over the next 72 hours (Figure 1). Pay close attention to the risk model and your local weather as we approach anthesis (flowering). I anticipate the risk to remain high as periods of rain and humidity persist. Fungicide products of choice to control FHB in Wisconsin include Caramba, Prosaro, and Miravis Ace. Multiple years of data in Wisconsin suggest that the best application window for any of these products begins at the start of anthesis until 5-7 days after the start of anthesis. Applying fungicide before anthesis or more than 7-10 days after anthesis will result in poor performance against vomitoxin accumulation. For information pertaining to recent fungicide studies on winter wheat in Wisconsin, CLICK HERE and scroll to page 12. Other reports can be found by CLICKING HERE.

Figure 1. Fusarium Head Blight Prediction Center 72-hour Outlook for Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Winter Wheat Disease Update – May 31, 2019

Damon Smith, Extension Field Crops Pathologist, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Brian Mueller, Assistant Field Researcher, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Field Crops Pathology crew has spent the last several days scouting winter wheat variety trials and commercial wheat fields in south and south-central Wisconsin. Wheat at all locations observed had flag leaves fully emerged. Weather has been extremely wet and cool across the state. Despite the wet conditions, wheat was generally disease free in all locations visited.

In Sharon, WI wheat looked decent despite challenging winter and spring conditions. The stand was a bit uneven in terms of growth stage, but most varieties looked good. It won’t be a record yield year, but stands look better than anticipated at this location. Wheat at the Arlington location in central Wisconsin looked very good with strong stands combined with even growth stages across varieties. I anticipate yields to be decent. At the Fond du Lac location wheat was in okay shape, however several varieties did experience significant winterkill. Stands were like those in Sharon, with uneven growth stages within varieties.

Figure 1. Fusarium head blight prediction for May 31, 2019

While disease on wheat has been relatively non-existent in Wisconsin, weather has been extremely wet across the state. Considering these conditions, we are worried about the risk for Fusarium head blight (FHB) this year given the weather pattern we have been stuck in. Currently, the Fusarium head blight Risk Model (http://www.wheatscab.psu.edu) is showing mostly high levels of risk in the primary wheat growing region of the state (Figure 1). While no heads have emerged, heading will begin in the next 1-2 weeks. Pay close attention to the risk model and your local weather as we approach anthesis (flowering). I anticipate the risk to remain high as periods of rain and humidity persist. Fungicide products of choice to control FHB in Wisconsin include Caramba, Prosaro, and Miravis Ace. Multiple years of data in Wisconsin suggest that the best application window for any of these products begins at the start of anthesis until 5-7 days after the start of anthesis. Applying fungicide before anthesis or more than 7-10 days after anthesis will result in poor performance against vomitoxin accumulation. For information pertaining to recent fungicide studies on winter wheat in Wisconsin, CLICK HERE and scroll to page 12. Other reports can be found by CLICKING HERE. Flag leaves are out, get out and scout!

Wisconsin Winter Wheat Disease Update – May 21, 2019

Damon Smith, Extension Field Crops Pathologist, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Brian Mueller, Assistant Field Researcher, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Figure 1. Septoria leaf blotch on wheat leaves

Winter wheat in Wisconsin continues to move through growth stages at a fairly even pace. Winter wheat plots in our research program located at the Arlington Agricultural Research Station, Arlington, Wisconsin are just approaching the emerging flag leaf stage. Perhaps by the weekend or early next week, flag leaves will have emerged. Interestingly, this growth stage will likely occur almost at the same date as in 2018. Last season, we applied our Feekes 8 fungicide treatments on May 25th. So while it has been cool, and wheat appears to be moving through growth stages slowly, things aren’t too far off from 2018.

Weather remains very wet. Most wheat we have scouted this week appears to be clean of disease. One concern we have is the development of Septoria leaf blotch. In 2016 we had an early epidemic of this leaf disease, that impacted yield. The cool conditions are not particularly conducive for this disease, but the high humidity and wet conditions certainly are. Weather forecasts indicate warmer conditions over the next week, thus keep your eyes peeled for the development of the disease.

Figure 2. Pycnidia in a Septoria leaf blotch lesion.

Septoria leaf blotch can be identified by necrotic lesions that develop on leaves of winter wheat (Figure 1). Small fruiting structures (pycnidia) can often be identified inside the necrotic area of the lesions, with the naked eye or a good hand lens (Figure 2). Prolonged wet/humid conditions broken by a brief dry period, followed by more wet conditions, can favor infection. Temperatures between 60 and 77 F favor disease development. Septoria leaf blotch can be managed with varietal resistance (both race-specific and partial resistance) and also fungicides. For a list of effective fungicides for Septoria leaf blotch control, CLICK HERE to download a copy of the Small Grains Fungicide Efficacy Table. For more information pertaining to Septoria leaf blotch, and other related leaf blotch diseases, CLICK HERE to download a fact sheet.

Reports from the the mid south and plains states continue to indicate stripe rust is on the move. Continue to monitor and scout wheat as your crop moves into the flag leaf stage and to heading. If stripe rust moves in, a fungicide application may be warranted. As I indicated in my previous update, we did not have a stripe rust epidemic in 2018, in Wisconsin. Thus, there was no inoculum in the state to infect fall-sown wheat. Inoculum for an epidemic to initiate in 2019 will have to come from the southern U.S. The best way to make an educated decision to spray is to scout and catch the disease in its early stages. Continue to pay attention to extension reports as we track stripe rust from the southern U.S., northward.

Wisconsin Winter Wheat Disease Update – May 6, 2019

Damon Smith, Extension Field Crops Pathologist, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Brian Mueller, Assistant Field Researcher, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Figure 1. A winter wheat stand in Lancaster WI, May 2, 2019.

The Badger Crop Docs have been scouting winter wheat in southern and south-central portions of Wisconsin (Figures 1 and 2). Wheat is moving extremely slow. Growth stages are much behind compared to this time last season. I estimate that we are 2 weeks behind 2018. We have noted that stands are hit and miss from one field to the next in terms of quality of stand. It depends on when wheat was planted last fall and how much tillering was present before snowfall, coupled with the presence of ice under the snow over the winter. Overall things are starting to come around, but definitely a slow start to the spring in Wisconsin.

As for wheat diseases, things have been very quiet. This is good news! We did not have a stripe rust epidemic in 2018, in Wisconsin. Thus, there was no inoculum in the state to infect fall-sown wheat. So, the likelihood of any infection last fall is extremely low. This, coupled with extremely cold temperatures over the winter into 2019, mean that the odds of the stripe rust pathogen over-wintering is extremely low. The downside to this news is that stripe rust has been fairly active in the southern plains and deep south. Stripe rust reports are picking up in Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. This could mean that inoculum might be transported into the state later this season. Critical times to keep track of this are around the time that the flag leaf emerges and then again at anthesis. These growth stages are typical to apply fungicides, but only if the conditions are right for disease development and scouting reports indicate the need.

Figure 2. A close-up of a winter wheat stand in Lancaster WI, May 2, 2019.

Fusarium head blight should also be on your radar. In 2018 we had a significant epidemic of Fusarium head blight (FHB or scab) that resulted in yield reductions and dockage at the elevator due to the production of vomitoxin by the fungus that causes FHB. We also had a significant amount of Gibberella ear rot which is caused by the same fungus that causes FHB in wheat. Thus, there is a significant amount of inoculum present in Wisconsin in 2019. We need to pay attention to the weather and what the FHB prediction model is telling us in terms of risk as we approach anthesis, later in the season.

Overall, winter wheat is not showing any disease issues right now. But continue to scout and track weather as we move through the season. Things can change rapidly and we will need to make some in-season disease management decisions as we move forward in 2019.

2018 Wisconsin Field Crops Pathology Fungicide Tests Summary Now Available

Damon Smith, Extension Field Crops Pathologist, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Brian Mueller, Assistant Field Researcher, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Each year the Wisconsin Field Crops Pathology Program conducts a wide array of fungicide tests on alfalfa, corn, soybeans, and wheat. These tests help inform researchers, practitioners, and farmers about the efficacy of certain fungicide products on specific diseases. The 2018 Wisconsin Field Crops Fungicide Test Summary is now available. These tests are by no means an exhaustive evaluation of all products available, but can be used to understand the general performance of a particular fungicide in a particular environment. Keep in mind that the best data to make an informed decision, come from multiple years and environments. To find fungicide performance data from Wisconsin in other years, visit the Wisconsin Fungicide Test Summaries page. You can also consult publication A3646 – Pest Management in Wisconsin Field Crops to find information on products labeled for specific crops and efficacy ratings for particular products. Additional efficacy ratings for some fungicide products for corn foliar fungicides, soybean foliar and seed-applied fungicides, and wheat foliar fungicides can be found on the Crop Protection Network website.

Mention of specific products in these publications are for your convenience and do not represent an endorsement or criticism. Remember that this is by no means a complete test of all products available.  You are responsible for using pesticides according to the manufacturers current label. Some products listed in the reports referenced above may not actually have an approved Wisconsin pesticide label. Be sure to check with your local extension office or agricultural chemical supplier to be sure the product you would like to use has an approved label.  Follow all label instructions when using any pesticide. Remember the label is the law!

2018 Pest Management Update Meeting Series Announced

The schedule for the Wisconsin Pest Management Update meeting series has been set. Presentations will include agronomic pest management information for Wisconsin field and forage crops. Speakers include Mark Renz and Rodrigo Werle, weed scientists, Damon Smith, plant pathologist, and Bryan Jensen, entomologist.

The format will be the same as in 2017. Meetings will either be in the morning or afternoon On November 12-16, 2018. Simply choose a day/location to attend with each meeting running 3 hours. Note that several locations and contacts have changed since 2017 (marked with * in the meeting flier). Please read the informational flier carefully and make sure you contact the appropriate person at your desired location.

2018 Pest Management Update Highlights:

  • Integrated Pest Management Updates in corn, soybeans, alfalfa, and small grains: Update on new products and/or use of existing products as well as brief highlights of the 2018 pest situations in each crop.
  • Waterhemp management
  • Dicamba off-target research
  • Pollinator Training
  • Soybean cyst nematode training and management

Please make your reservation with the host contact at least one week prior to the scheduled meeting date.

Three hours of Certified Crop Advisor CEU credits in pest management are requested for each session.

To download a PDF of the flier, CLICK HERE.

Don’t lose your head over Fusarium head blight: What to do as you prepare for wheat harvest

Damon L. Smith, Extension Field Crops Pathologist, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Shawn P. Conley, Extension Soybean and Small Grains Agronomist, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Figure 1. FHB on some wheat heads. Note the bleached and reddened appearance of infected kernels.

Fusarium head blight (FHB) or scab has been observed in some Wisconsin winter wheat fields this season. Incidence and severity have been variable this season, based on location and susceptibility of the wheat variety. Generally, we have observed more FHB in the southern wheat growing areas of the state, with less FHB as we moved north and east. Visit my previous post for a full report. It is important to scout your maturing wheat crop and consider how much damage from FHB might be in a field as you prepare for harvest. While FHB can cause direct yield loss, the fungus that causes this disease can also produce deoxynivalenol (also known as DON or vomitoxin). Assessing wheat fields now can assist you in determining how much vomitoxin might be expected at harvest. However, it is possible to find high levels of vomitoxin in finished grain, even if FHB levels where low.

Figure 2. Bleached heads caused by Fusarium head blight of winter wheat

What does scab look like? Diseased spikelets on an infected grain head die and bleach prematurely (Fig. 2).  Healthy spikelets on the same head retain their normal green color.  Over time, premature bleaching of spikelets may progress throughout the entire grain head.  If infections occur on the stem immediately below the head, the entire head may die.  As symptoms progress, developing grains are colonized causing them to shrink and wrinkle.  Often, infected kernels have a rough, sunken appearance, and range in color from pink or soft gray, to light brown. As wheat dries down, visual inspection of heads for scab will become more difficult.

Why is identifying scab important? Scab identification is important, not only because it reduces yield, but also because it reduces the quality and feeding value of grain.  In addition, the FHB fungus may produce mycotoxins, including DON or vomitoxin, that when ingested, can adversely affect livestock and human health.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has set maximum allowable levels of DON in feed for various animal systems, these are as follows: beef and feedlot cattle and poultry < 10ppm; Swine and all other animals < 5ppm.

What should I do to prepare for wheat harvest?

  1. Scout your fields now to assess risk. Wheat is maturing rapidly. As maturity progresses it will be increasingly difficult to assess the incidence and severity of the infection. Understanding a field’s risk will help growers either field blend or avoid highly infected areas so entire loads are not rejected.
  2. DO NOT spray fungicide now. Research has demonstrated that the window of opportunity to manage FHB with fungicides is at the beginning of anthesis and only lasts about 7 days. Applications later than 7 days after the start of anthesis are not effective in controlling FHB. In addition, most fungicide labels do not allow a pre-harvest interval (PHI) suitable for a late application on wheat. Any application now would be off-label.
  3. Adjust combine settings to blow out lighter seeds and chaff. Salgado et al. 2011 indicated that adjusting a combine’s fan speed between 1,375 and 1,475 rpms and shutter opening to 90 mm (3.5 inches) resulted in the lowest discounts that would have been received at the elevator due to low test weight, % damaged kernels, and level of the mycotoxin deoxynivalenol (DON; vomitoxin) present in the harvested grain.
  4. Know your elevators inspection and dockage procedure (each elevator can have a different procedure).
  5. Scabby kernels does not necessarily mean high DON levels and vice versa. For example, in a 2014 fungicide evaluation very low visible levels of FHB were observed for all treatments. However, when the finished grain was tested for DON, significant levels were identified for all treatments. Be sure to test and know what levels of DON are in your grain even if you didn’t see a high level of visible disease. Also, don’t assume that because a fungicide was used, there will be no DON.
  6. DON can be present in the straw so there is concern regarding feeding or using scab infected wheat straw.  DO NOT use straw for bedding or feed from fields with high levels of scab (Cowger and Arellano, 2013). If in doubt, have the straw tested for DON levels.
  7. Do not save seed from a scab-infected field. Fusarium graminearum can be transmitted via seed. Infected seeds will have decreased growth and tillering capacity as well as increased risk for winterkill.
  8. Do not store grain from fields with high levels of scab.  DON and other mycotoxins can continue to increase in stored grain.
  9. Harvest in a timely fashion to minimize elevator discounts and balance dockage due to FHB. Click here to read about some recent research on optimizing harvest timing in winter wheat.
  10. For more information on Fusarium head blight click here.

References

  1. Cowger, C., and Arellano, C. 2013. Fusarium graminearum infection and deoxynivalenol concentrations during development of wheat spikes. Phytopathology 103:460-471.
  2. Salgado, J. D., Wallhead, M., Madden, L. V., and Paul, P. A. 2011. Grain harvesting strategies to minimize grain quality losses due to Fusarium head blight in wheat. Plant Dis. 95:1448-1457.

Wisconsin Winter Wheat Disease Update – June 26, 2018

Damon Smith, Extension Field Crops Pathologist, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Brian Mueller, Assistant Field Researcher, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Figure 1. Fusarium head blight of winter wheat

The Wisconsin Field Crops Pathology crew has scouted and rated all winter wheat variety trials across the wheat-growing region of the state. We have also looked at commercial fields for disease in the region. In general leaf diseases will be of minimal impact this season. We have observed a little Septoria leaf blotch in some fields in the lower canopy. However, this pathogen will not limit yield this season, as it has not reached the flag leaf yet. We have also not observed any stripe rust this season. As I mentioned in previous posts, the winter was cold enough with minimal snow cover, which didn’t allow the stripe rust pathogen to overwinter in the region. Subsequent spread from the southern states north, was also not fast enough to reach the crop in Wisconsin to impact yield. If stripe rust does arrive this season, it will not impact yield. Leaf rust was observed at the Arlington (south-central Wisconsin) location. However, it was at very low incidence and severity and will likely not impact yield on most varieties in the state.

Figure 2. Fusarium head blight index of winter wheat in small plots where fungicide programs were used in 2014.

Fusarium head blight (FHB; scab) has been observed at all locations visited. Incidence and severity is highly variable based on location. At the Sharon (southern Wisconsin) and Arlington locations, FHB could be found in some plots at incidence levels as high as 50% with 50% severity. Many plots had low levels of FHB, thus the average levels at these locations was around 10% incidence with severity levels of around 20%. As we moved north and east in Wisconsin, FHB was at much lower incidence and severity levels. Incidence averaged 5%-10% with severity around 15% at the Chilton and Fond du Lac locations. Commercial fields that we have scouted in these regions fall within these same averages.

Figure 3. Vomitoxin levels of finished grain from winter wheat small plots where fungicide programs were used in 2014.

While I don’t think the FHB epidemic in 2018 will be as bad as 2015, I think it is important to scout fields and understand the levels of FHB present. It will also be important to test finished grain for vomitoxin or DON. Often, the level of visible FHB damage does not reflect the vomitoxin levels of harvested grain. This happened in some fields in 2014, including a research trial that we had at the Arlington location. FHB index levels on heads in the field were very low across all treatments in our research trials that year (Fig. 2). However, when the finished grain was tested for vomitoxin, levels were quite high (Fig. 3). There are a number of factors that can contribute to this phenomenon, including time of infection, varieties, weather, and treatment. The point is, be sure this doesn’t happen to you. Scout AND have finished grain tested so you aren’t surprised at the elevator!