Wheat researchers, millers urge growers to use all of the available science, information during planting to avoid another bad wheat harvest

The 2010 wheat harvest in Ohio has been one of the worst on record in Ohio since 1996 with many elevators reporting high toxin levels of grain. Fusarium Head Blight (FHB, also called scab) is a serious disease of wheat that affects the entire wheat industry in Ohio, from growers to millers to bakers.

“While there is no silver bullet to preventing head scab, there are tools available to avoid such a disastrous wheat harvest,” said Dr. Clay Sneller of The Ohio State University’s OARDC program in Wooster. “And it’s hard to eliminate any fungal disease with just crop rotation.”

The USDA’s US Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative has invested millions of dollars to develop technology to control FHB.  That technology is available right now and consists of varieties with improved resistance, effective fungicides, prediction models, and other management practices that reduce FHB (see http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/scabsmart/).

“Control of FHB primarily consists of planting the most resistant varieties and applying fungicides if heavy disease pressure is predicted. There are no truly resistant varieties, but there are some that show few symptoms and accumulate less vomitoxin, even under highly favorable weather conditions,” Sneller said.

Millers agree with Sneller, and are calling on wheat growers to make the best choices when heading into the wheat-planting season in the Buckeye State.

“A lot of this year’s wheat was dying instead of maturing,” said Don Mennel of Minnel Milling, which has several locations across Ohio. “Fungicides pay for themselves by providing a yield boost.”

Sneller ads that in the past, the few varieties with good resistance did not yield well in Ohio; that is no longer the case. According to Sneller, in each of the past three years there have been at least 12 cultivars in the OSU Extension Wheat Performance Trial with equal or better resistance to FHB than the cultivar Truman: Truman is currently considered the gold-standard of FHB resistance. In 2010, 13 varieties in the trial had FHB values that were equal or less than Truman (Table 1) including three of the top ten, and five of the top 15 yielding varieties. Fifteen of 18 companies/universities with varieties in the 2010 trials had at least one variety with moderate resistance. By choosing among these varieties, growers can find ones with both high-yield and good FHB resistance. Still, 26.8% of the varieties in 2010 trial had higher FHB values than the susceptible check: these should be avoided, as more resistant alternatives exist.

“With the availability of this technology and improved varieties, grower decisions to plant varieties with good FHB resistance and to avoid susceptible varieties, can now be viewed as the crucial step in controlling FHB in Ohio,” Sneller said.

Table 1. 2010 OSU Extension Wheat Performance Trial data from 13 varieties with FHB Index equal to or lower than that of Truman. Yield data is averaged over five Ohio locations and yield ranks are based on all 67 entries in the 2010 test. Please go to   http://www.ag.ohio-state.edu/~perf/ to see all data on all 67 varieties in the 2010 trial.

Source: Dr. Clay Sneller, OSU

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