Fusarium a Cause for Concern in Manitoba

CANADA - The University of Manitoba says, while fusarium head blight infection has the potential to reduce wheat yields, the biggest concern is the toxin the fungal disease produces, writes Bruce Cochrane.
calendar icon 24 September 2008
clock icon 3 minute read

In its weekly crop report, Manitoba Agriculture indicates fusarium is a major concern throughout the province's wheat crop with infection levels running as high as seven percent in some areas.

University of Manitoba plant geneticist Dr. Anita Brûlé-Babel says, under heavy epidemics, fusarium will substantially reduce yields but the bigger concern is its impact on quality.

Dr. Anita Brûlé-Babel-University of Manitoba

This organism produces a toxin in the seed and that toxin essentially limits the utility of the grain that's harvested from that field in terms of end use characteristics.

So it becomes not suitable for human consumption and not suitable for certain animals so it degrades the quality and value of that crop and limits what we can do with the crop when we have severe infections because of the toxin in the grain.

If you look at the distribution of fusarium head blight and who's like to have conditions that are most conducive to infection, we definitely see southern Manitoba and southeastern Saskatchewan as the main areas largely because we tend to be in a wetter climate so we have more humidity and we also tend to be warmer.

As you move west and north conditions become limiting in terms of the organism being able to infect the plants.

We do see fusarium in Saskatchewan and sometimes even in Alberta but to a much lesser extent and much more sporadically than what we'll see in Manitoba or southeastern Saskatchewan.

Dr. Brûlé-Babel notes one challenge is that most of the grain is graded at the elevator based on visual identification of fusarium infected kernels but toxin levels and the levels of infected kernels don't always coincide so samples might grade well with low levels of FDK but still have unacceptable levels of toxins.

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