Manitoba Hit Hard By Fusarium

As of mid-September it was still too early to tell, with great detail, how the 2010 cereal crop across Western Canada fared against the effects of fusarium head blight (FHB).

Disease levels were higher this year, because of all the moisture across much of the lower Prairie region, compared to average years. And specifically in Manitoba, winter wheat was hammered pretty hard. But with only a small percentage of the overall Prairie grain crop harvested, the full picture is yet to be revealed.

“Preliminary surveys suggest disease levels were higher than normal, but in some early reports crops have fared better than expected,” says Andy Tekauz, plant disease specialist with Agriculture Canada at Winnipeg.

“The big story in Manitoba is that winter wheat was hit much worse than usual,” he says. “Of course winter wheat is totally susceptible to fusarium head blight, so with ideal conditions for development of the disease, it perhaps isn’t surprising.” Usually winter wheat, because of early flowering escapes the worst impact of FHB.

Referring to the fusarium head blight severity index, Tekauz says last year, or under more normal conditions, winter wheat had a severity index of one per cent, compared to this year, which was 12 per cent.

Early indications are that spring wheat with improved resistance to the disease had a severity index of four per cent, while the FHB severity index for barley was also about four per cent.

He says wheat and barley varieties typically have a higher resistance to the disease and new varieties are being developed with even greater resistance. Tekauz says he hasn’t received any reports yet on how well improved varieties such as AC Carberry, AC Waskada, 5620HR and a North Dakota variety, Glenn, fared under this higher disease pressure.

Improved varieties, coupled with the fact that most wheat and barley is treated with some type of fungicide, especially in disease-prone areas, may help to minimize the FHB impact.

Details of how individual varieties held up against fusarium head blight will have to be monitored either by seed companies or plant breeders. Norm Woodbeck, manager of quality assurance standards with the Canadian Grain Commission says they don’t track quality by variety.

Woodbeck says other than testing on Red Winter wheat and early-spring wheat samples from Manitoba submitted by mid-September, there wasn’t much information on how the bulk of the Prairie grain crop was doing.

“Usually at this time of year we could have 3,000 to 4,000 samples through the door, and this year we have only received about 500,” says Woodbeck. The bulk of the crop is yet to come. Early indications are, although yield is down, the quality of the wheat crop from Peace River region is “spectacular,” he says. And the quality of the few samples received from Alberta and Saskatchewan were pretty good, too. But as of mid-September, it had been about 10 days or more since any samples had been received.

John Lyons, spokesman for the Canadian Wheat Board says at that point in September about 50 per cent of the Manitoba harvest was complete and only about 18 per cent across Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Bill Legge, a barley breeder with Agriculture Canada in Brandon, says there are some newer barley varieties with improved FHB resistance, but he adds that resistance is not immunity, and with high disease pressure crops can still have high disease and DON (deoxynivalenol) levels.

LeeHartisafieldeditorforGrainewsin Calgary.Contacthimat403-592-1964orby emailat [email protected]

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Field Editor

Lee Hart

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.

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